In the thirty-sixth issue of The Sandman, Barbie discovers the identity of The Cuckoo and learns of the true purpose of the Land. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Sandman.
“Over the Sea to Sky”
I should have paid attention to all of the information provided by Tantoblin’s scroll. I should have paid attention to the name of the “villain” of this story. And despite that I thought I understood that this story was leading towards the destruction of the Land, I was still woefully unprepared for where this story would eventually end up. I seriously stared at the Cuckoo for thirty seconds once she showed up, my brain refusing to accept what I was seeing. That was Barbie. As a child. What the fuck? How is that possible? I knew the Land was in the Dreaming, but was this a figment of Barbie’s imagination? Some other version of her? Why on earth would she be killing off Barbie’s creations?
Because everything must end. And it’s time for this world to come to an end.
While I agree that the vast majority of the boys I grew up with were way more into superheroes with secret identities than anything else, I wasn’t. I wanted them to save me, but I didn’t want to be one. I always wanted to be the lost prince of a distant world. I felt like I did not belong in the world I was in, that I was actually from another dimension or a far away planet. That’s why I liked the Chronicles of Narnia so much. It’s why I still enjoy the kind of fantasy like Harry Potter or His Dark Materials. I suppose that I grew up believing the world I lived in wasn’t worth saving. I wanted something else. I wanted the whole system to be different. I don’t know that I feel the same way anymore, especially since my own taste for fiction has evolved since I was young.
I know that’s why “A Game of You” is so touching to me. It’s a difficult story to read on multiple levels. My childhood was bearable because of fiction. That was my escape from all that shit that happened to me. And this issue is about the literal destruction of that world I’d escape to, about Barbie being forced to grow up, about the group of friends who have come to retrieve Barbie and take her back to the real world, and about a woman struggle to assert her identity amidst a storm, both real and metaphorical. It’s about Foxglove accepting Hazel unconditionally, WHICH NEARLY MADE ME CRY.
“Fox, I do love you.”
“Damn straight you do. Jerk.”
No, what are all these emotions I’m feeling? Why is this happening? Why are you doing this to me, Gaiman?
The vast majority of this volume focuses on the five women who make up the story, so I was actually surprised to see Dream finally show up. WHOOPS, I FORGOT YOU EXISTED BECAUSE THERE ARE SO MANY FABULOUS WOMEN IN THE PAGES OF THIS NOVEL. The pages leading up to his arrival were incredibly tense, especially since I didn’t know what would happen if Barbie really did destroy the Porpentine. The younger image of herself was certainly manipulating everyone and getting her way, so I started to think that Barbie would actually die by the end of this issue. Would the Cuckoo take her place? What would happen to her friends, who didn’t seem to be fighting to stop her anymore?
In a bright, blinding display of power, Barbie destroys the Porpentine on the monolith on the Isle of Thorns, and it’s an act that finally conjures Morpheus. (Why is that name used here instead of Dream or Dream Lord?) I was surprised initially how calm this resolution was, first of all. It is gorgeous to watch Dream uncreate the Land. It’s also very much like the end of The Chronicles of Narnia, specifically The Last Battle. I didn’t like how that book ended, by the way. How depressing. (And yes, I’ve read “The Problem of Susan,” which my friend Natalie directed me to last year at LeakyCon when I told her I was doing The Sandman for Mark Reads.) The Land is folded entirely out of existence after a long, sad procession of creations enter Dream’s cloak, and they disappear forever. I wonder who Alianora is. We get very little information about who she is, aside from the fact that she lived in the Land for a long, long time. Was she the first person to come here? Was she responsible for all of these creations existing? We don’t find out before she is gone, too. I have a feeling a lot of this place will remain a mystery, and that’s the point. It was a different place for each person who escaped here. There’s no easy answer for this, and I accept the ambiguity of the Land. It simply existed in the Dreaming to serve a purpose for those who escaped to it.
And now it’s gone.
Unfortunately, it’s not the only thing that leaves in this issue. I did not understand why the issue kept flashing to Wanda and the storm until it was basically spelled out to me by Dream. Thessalian’s trip to the moon has caused a catastrophic storm on Earth. The result? That horrifying final page of issue thirty-six, where the homeless woman and Wanda are obliterated by the oncoming storm. More than the Land, I am gutted by the loss of this wonderful woman.
FUCK. No, this is the darkest timeline, bring her back. 🙁 🙁 🙁
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