In the thirty-third issue of The Sandman, this might be my favorite volume yet. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Sandman.
“Lullabies of Broadway”
Fucked up. Fucked up. How does Gaiman keep finding ways to get progressively more disturbing than before? I still don’t understand who the Children of the Cuckoo are, but we get to see precisely what they can do. You know, I thought Dream would be the first one in the series to actively spread nightmares to different people, but George’s crows prove to be even more horrific than I could have imagined.
There’s a fascinating set-up to these nightmares, and I appreciate that Gaiman spends time giving us the emotional ammunition that the crows will later exploit. We open with Hazel, a lesbian who lives in the same building as Barbie, who discovers that a one-night stand she had with a gay man has left her pregnant. If that seems at all unlikely to you, I know two men who consider themselves gay who got women pregnant, and both of those women considered themselves gay as well. It happens, and sexuality is a lot more fluid than most people believe. But Hazel’s story also has a basis in a lack of sex education. Hazel might have made a bad decision, but Barbie gets to witness just how little she knows about sex. Part of that could be from the fact that she’s only had sex as a lesbian, of course. We’re given no information otherwise, and I know I’m stretching this out a bit. But even in my own experience, I wasn’t taught much about sex at all. I went to one of those schools that taught abstinence because the highly-religious school board wouldn’t allow anything else. All of the pages with information on condoms, birth control, masturbation, and sex were removed from our health books. I wish I was making this up. We weren’t allowed to know! And I wasn’t even going to have heterosexual sex in my life, so imagine my frustration towards that, too. I had no fucking clue what I was supposed to do or what other guys did.
Anyway, it’s this fear that Hazel has that’s later exploited by the crows. As Barbie slowly slips back into her dream Land (oh my god WHAT IS NUALA DOING HERE), George releases his golden-beaked crows. They soon begin to torment everyone in the building, one by one. The first person they go after is Wanda. I had a feeling that she was trans, but I didn’t say anything in yesterday’s review because… well, I’m just not used to fiction having trans characters. That being said, I’m not sure how trans folks might feel about how she’s written. I think it’s great that there is a trans character featured prominently in this issue, but she’s also framed in terms of an operation, and I know that can be a huge triggering factor for a lot of trans people. So this is a situation where I think it’s best for me not to give my opinion on the matter as someone who’s privileged over trans folk, and instead listen to others. How do you feel about Hazel? Is this a character you enjoy, or do you think Gaiman just falls into damaging tropes with her portrayal?
Hazel’s nightmare is next, and I can’t even deal with it. Like, Shawn McManus had to spend time drawing a dead baby eating the guts out of another newborn. The crows are now going to give me nightmares, too. UGH THIS IS SO DISTURBING. And then Judy. HOLY SHIT. HOLY SHIT. Oh my god, how does Gaiman keep bringing back small details from the past to punch me right in the feels? It’s like he exists solely to destroy me with a sentence or a single panel.
But Thessaly doesn’t have a nightmare. Unbelievably so, she seems immune to the crows, waking up and smashing one of them against the wall. What the hell? Why can’t she have nightmares? She also recognizes that the crows came from George, so she heads straight to his apartment with a knife behind her back. Oh shit, this is getting so real.
Honestly, though, I think that Barbie’s own dream Land is the most interesting thing about this issue. I got a kind of Chronicles of Narnia sense to what the Land is, and I’m pretty sure this is just a place that Barbie created. Perhaps it existed to comfort her at one time, and she stopped trying to go back there. Or maybe something else stopped her. Either way, even Barbie’s physical appearance suggests that this is supposed to represent a fantasy world for children. There are anthropomorphic creatures who are helping Barbie go on a quest to save their world from a big bad evil. How is that not a children’s fantasy? It’s all the parts of it, though Barbie’s twisted it to be the best world for her.
But Barbie’s not a child anymore. How is she going to save her Land? Does she even want to anymore? Is Dream just going to sit back and watch this all unfold, or will he intervene? He’s an intervener, I bet he’ll step in. Oh god, what is the Cuckoo? Or, should I say, who are the Cuckoo? UGH I AM JUST SO TERRIBLY EXCITED TO READ MORE.
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