In the sixteenth issue of The Sandman, an unexpected character interrupts Dream’s destruction of Rose. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Sandman.
I think one of the more fascinating parts of the conclusion of volume two of The Sandman is the fact that Gaiman doesn’t even have his characters fully understand what’s going on. And while this final part of volume two wraps up pretty much every plot line introduced from the start, Gaiman doesn’t over explain this. I don’t think this is a cop-out, for the record, because I don’t feel the need to have the logistical details of how a dream vortex exists explained to me. It wouldn’t provide me with any emotional resonance and I don’t know that it would satisfy me. (Unless it’s tied to some other story, that is.) That’s actually something that happens a lot, too, especially when you introduce supernatural or fantastical elements to a story, and even more so when you take a long time to resolve these issues. I’m reminded of the severe backlash to the last couple seasons of LOST and the ire people felt when certain fantastical devices were explained. Actually, then some people were furious that other elements weren’t explained. And I liked all of it and just accepted the story the writers gave us? I don’t necessarily defend the choices of the show and I wouldn’t try to convince someone to like it, but it was kind of irritating to me that people were so adamant about getting answers and then despising them almost immediately.
I guess that doesn’t have much to do with “Lost Hearts” aside from the idea that I like that Gaiman doesn’t bog me down with details and answers. At the same time, Rose sort of speaks for the reader in a sense: Why must she die? How can this be real if it’s a dream? Can’t he find another way around this? Why her? Dream answers some of those questions; others he refuses; and the big one at the end he doesn’t even understand until he confronts his sibling about their possible involvement in his life. I still had some questions myself, mainly WHAT THE FUCK WHAT WAS THE WHOLE WORLD THAT HE LOST TO THE DREAM VORTEX. Yeah, can I have that story? I would love to know.
I think that the use of Fiddler’s Green in this issue gives us a neat little story about the human experience, too. While I would have enjoyed to see more of his journey, I now understand why he was around in the capacity he was for Rose. His decision to leave the Dreaming and pursue and experience as a human being led him to develop this intense bond with Rose. It’s a bit ironic, then, that the one human he chose to get close to was a dream vortex. But that doesn’t change how he feels or what he went through. I don’t think he ever would have tried to intervene to offer his life in Rose’s place without living as a human. And yes, obviously, he wouldn’t have known Rose otherwise, but I mean that from an emotional standpoint. She changed him, and I wonder if we’ll see Fiddler’s Green again in future issues. How will he grow from this experience?
Unity’s appearance, then, was immensely shocking to me. I actually thought she’d die by the end of this volume, but when she appears in Fiddler’s Green with Matthew, Rose, and Dream, I was utterly confused. How could she do that? Why did she choose to show up there? How could she take Rose’s place? I understand absolutely nothing. It was one of those things that I read and was entertained by what was happening (OH MY GOD ROSE REMOVED HER HEART THAT IS SO COOL OH GOD SO MANY LAYERS OF SYMBOLISM), but I couldn’t explain to you at the time what exactly was occurring. It does relate to the point I made at the beginning, that I enjoy that Gaiman just gives us the story and experience without weighing us down with detailed minutia. I must also say that I love that Unity insults Dream and tells him he’s “obviously not very bright.” I love you. It’s great that this is resolved in the way it is not only because Rose gets to survive, though. Dream’s honest confusion is fantastic to witness, first of all. But when it’s later revealed how Unity became the vortex (WHAT THE FUCK WHAT THE FUCK!!!!!), I found it really powerful that at the end of this, Unity gets the choice to do as she wants, that she controls what happens and how this all ends after this all started after her control was taken away from her. I think that Dream’s line to Desire rings true here: the humans are the ones who truly control the eternal beings, and Unity openly demonstrates that this is true. Also, what the fuck. Did Dream do something to Desire? WHY IS HE SO DESPISED? I don’t get this!
I think my absolute favorite part, though, is the entire segment where Rose “wakes up.” The narration is fantastic, and I love that Gaiman gets a chance to be a narrator in this way. He really does have a way with words that I adore, and it’s great to see the poetic way in which he gives us Rose’s life after she’s no longer the vortex. This isn’t a happy ending in any traditional sense. I found it rather realistic that it took Rose six months to come to terms with what happened to her. But in the end, she had her family there to help her. Her brother ended up recovering, and the Walker family is finally all together. Still, it’s not all wonderful. There’s that devastating revelation that one of Rose’s friends, Judy, was in that diner with Doctor Destiny, and I literally just yelled “GODDAMN IT GAIMAN” when I got to that point. So much tragedy, and I just started this series!
But it’s a satisfying end of Rose’s depression and listlessness. I can’t believe I’m going to compare the two, but I found myself thinking of another book that tried to convey the horror of loss, but did so quite poorly: New Moon. LOOK, LET ME EXPLAIN THIS. The entire bit where Rose narrates the six months of her life and explains how hard it was to get on with her life is done in a way that respects just how difficult an experience like that really is. It does not imply nothingness like New Moon does, that depression means nothing happens ever for FOUR MONTHS STRAIGHT. Oh god, I will never forgive that goddamn part of the book. IT’S JUST BAD WRITING. This is not! I know from personal experience just how fucked up it is to be depressed on a debilitating level, and I know how hard it is to deal with trauma. But the dual meaning of Rose “waking up” in this final issue of volume two at least gives this comic a hopeful ending. I feel that it’s possible she can actually move on with her life and escape from all the fear and loss. Truthfully, there really are worse ways a story can end.
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