In the fifteenth issue of The Sandman, Rose discovers her power over dreaming as Dream rushes to stop her. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Sandman.
“Into The Night”
So, you know when you find something so wonderful that you want to run up to random strangers and grab them by the lapel of their jacket or their sides and shake them, screaming into their face about how they just haven’t lived until they’ve read this thing, this one story that is so profound and complete that it’s the reason you read in the first place? Do you know that feeling? It doesn’t happen often, and, despite that I have enjoyed everything I’ve done for Mark Reads, it’s only happened for a couple projects: Harry Potter and His Dark Materials. I know it’s premature for me to make any sort of statements of this caliber about The Sandman, but I sat on “Into The Night” for a full day before sitting down to write about it. I can’t get this portion of this novel out of my mind. I can’t ignore the way the art, the lettering, and the writing all come together in the way that they do here to give me a tale of discovery, identity, and fear. And, above all, this is one of the most surreal things I’ve had the chance to read, and the power of the strangeness of it all sticks with me more than anything.
I believe that if anyone could have pulled this off as a strict novel, it would be Neil Gaiman. American Gods was certainly increasingly bizarre, so the point I’m trying to make isn’t that “Into The Night” only works as a visual story. But this is exactly why I wanted to introduce a graphic novel as a format I wanted to cover for Mark Reads. (Next: I really, really want to do an online web comic of sorts. How cool would that be? Everyone could read along!) Every time I hear some fool say that graphic novels aren’t real novels, or that they can’t tell a good story, I now have another thing I can shove in their face and tell them that they are LIARS WHO SIT ON A THRONE OF LIES. (I’d also add Persepolis, Black Hole, and Watchmen to that because WHAT IS YOUR LIFE IF YOU HAVEN’T READ THESE GRAPHIC NOVELS) Like, I know lots of you understand because you adore this graphic novel! It’s been so fun to read the comments on these posts because I don’t think I’ve ever seen such an intense, emotional love for a series distilled over the Internet. And it’s not that the other fandoms I’ve waltzed through aren’t passionate, but there’s this very different tone to the way people discuss The Sandman that I haven’t quite experienced. I suppose it’s hard for me to pinpoint what that difference is exactly, but I know that many of you understand why I just want to shriek into people’s faces about this story.
I mean, THE DREAM PANELS. Gaiman and the artists so brilliantly render the surreal, bizarre nature of dreams that are based in stress and conflict. This is absolutely different than a lot of the dreams we’ve seen so far, and I appreciate the lengths they’ve gone to convey that idea. I was jokingly discussing this idea recently, because despite that I’ve not been in school for over six years, I still have nightmares about missing a deadline for a paper or showing up to class without having studied. The very fabric of these dreams is so realistic and frightening when you’re having them, but once you reflect back on them, you realize just how many things in them make absolutely no sense. That’s why I love that all the characters in this boarding house have dreams representing their fears and identity issues, but they’re still twisted perversions of their emotional state. I wouldn’t want it any other way because it wouldn’t be real. And part of that also comes from Rose Walker’s epiphany when she comes to know that she can exist in the dreaming, that she can see what her housemates are dreaming, that she can push through the walls that separate the two realities.
My god, I can’t even count the number of times that I’ve looked at the two-page spread where Rose opens the vortex inside of her and the characters, Dream included, swim around her, and this young woman’s power is realized at the exact moment in her life where she feels the most hopeless and the most vulnerable, her brother and grandmother thousands of mils apart and nearing death, and then Dream has to break this up. He has to stop it, and the first thing we see? All the characters in the boarding house, waking up, incomplete, unfulfilled, and restless. And there’s a fascinating subtext to this idea, that we can actually find completeness in our dreams, and that these characters might be held back by their nightmares instead of finding solace, and that no matter how we portray ourselves to the world, we all have a horrifying inner monologue and conflict within us that only appears in the world of dreams.
This is, as far as I’m concerned, a perfect issue at this point, and then Neil Gaiman has to go and punch me in the face. Gilbert is that fourth lost creation of Dream, isn’t he? HE WAS THERE ALL THE FUCKING TIME AND I HAD NO IDEA. Even worse, we find out exactly what it is that Dream must do to free the vortex from Rose Walker: kill her.
Fucked up. This is so fucked up.
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