Mark Reads ‘The Sandman’: 4×02 – Seasons of Mist: Episode 1

In the twenty-second issue of The Sandman, Dream prepares to return to Hell while Lucifer makes plans of his own. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Sandman.

“Seasons of Mist: Episode 1”

Hell is such a fascinating topic to me, and I don’t doubt that’s because of the way I was raised. My mother was a Seventh Day Adventist until a few years after I was adopted; she then quickly abandoned the church for reasons I still don’t know, and adopted her own form of fire-and-brimstone Christianity, and that’s what I got. (Interestingly enough, a great deal of Seventh Day Adventists are vegetarian or vegan, so she totally stole my thunder when I “came out” as vegan at the end of my freshman year of college. SHE WAS ACTUALLY VERY EXCITED. To this day, she makes me a vegan Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner, and she’s HELLA GOOD AT IT.) We never once went to church, but she used a very strict interpretation of the Bible to make me believe that I was headed straight to Hell. And that was a terrifying thing to believe without question by the time you’re eleven! I mean, I seriously thought I would spend eternity suffering in hellfire, and no matter how hard I tried to be good, it wasn’t good enough. LOL CAN YOU SEE WHERE MY VALIDATION ISSUES CAME FROM

I don’t remember the exact moment, but I know that one day, I stopped and thought about Hell. Like, the very concept of it. And I realized that as much as my mother drilled the idea of Hell into my brain, I had no idea what it looked like. Where was it? Were there rooms? What part would I be sent to? Was it really just like being set on fire for infinity? As I went through my Catholic education a few years later, I was shocked to find that there was no real information about what Hell was in the Bible or in Catholic canon. Well, there was some info, but most of it was so vague that I found myself questioning why people believed in it so voraciously. This became a common theme in my exploration of religion, and it was one I ultimately couldn’t ever rectify. I needed so much concrete detail from my religion that the concept of faith wouldn’t satisfy me.

I did discover both Milton’s Paradise Lost and Dante’s Divine Comedy. While certainly fictional narratives, they were endlessly fascinating to me because they provided me what the Bible could not: details. And look, if you’ve never read Inferno, spoiler alert! IT IS SUPREMELY FUCKED UP. So imagine how awesome it was to read that as a Catholic and a gay man. IT WAS REAL FUN. Then I learned that Dante just put a lot of his friends and enemies in Hell and suddenly, that poem was a riot. What an asshole! Still, even after I started to call myself an atheist, I was totally intrigued by the concept of Hell. That does explain why I liked that particular issue in volume one so much, but it was also beautifully illustrated as well. LET’S NOT FORGET THAT.

So “Episode One” is basically everything I want from everything ever. I love that we get such visceral glimpses of Hell and the eternal suffering that goes on there. It’s interesting to me that Hell isn’t necessarily a place that belongs purely to Christianity, as there’s almost no mention or reference to the Christian God or Jesus. Plus, Dream was able to banish someone to Hell, so now I’m wondering who else can do that. Is this like the world in American Gods? In a way, that feels like a companion to this series, almost as if they exist in the same universe. Oh god, do they??? Oh, now I want to re-read American Gods again to see if there are references to The Sandman.

As fun and enthralling as it is to see Hell again (OH MY GOD IT’S SO VIOLENT AND GROSS AND THAT’S WHAT IT SHOULD BE), I actually found myself most enamored with the way Dream acts in this issue. There’s a humility to him in these pages that we’ve not seen before. He’s an arrogant, egotistical jerk a lot of the time, and he’s used to be lord of a realm. Having Nada’s predicament thrown in his face seems to be making him think twice about who he is. It’s easy to see, then, how differently he acts as he bids goodbye to his entire realm. There’s a bit of caution to his words that’s refreshing to me, especially as he visits certain people in case he doesn’t return. (OH MY GOD THE WHOLE SCENE WITH HOB STOP TUGGING ON MY HEART STRINGS, GAIMAN.) (JESUS IT’S HIPPOLYTA, DUDE WHAT ARE YOU DOING, DREAM? SHE HATES YOU AND FOR A GOOD REASON. You are flawed even when trying to do good. oh my god moral ambiguity COME TO ME.)

This really is a gorgeous issue, and I am slightly freaking out about what Lucifer has planned for Dream. Oh, shit is most certainly going to get real, and I am terribly excited to keep reading. This graphic novel is the best, I swear.

 

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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