In the forty-sixth issue of The Sandman, HOLY CRAP, DREAM. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Sandman.
I believe that this issue has the most significant moment of character development for Dream in the series so far. There’s really no character in fiction that I’ve come across who is anything like him. (Bravo for that, Neil Gaiman.) He’s a being who has remained unchanged for centuries, for so many thousands of years that there’s no reason for him to change. Even when his life is altered by something as huge as losing someone he loves, he still falls into the same familiar patterns. (I think that’s the whole point of the scene with Mervyn.) He’s gloomy, he is detached from others, he believes he’s a superior being, and he lacks any and all sympathy and empathy. Hell, most of the time, it’s best to just avoid thinking of him in human terms. He is certainly not anything like humans for the most part. I think the way he treats Delirium in the opening of this issue is a sign of how he can’t even see how selfish he is. He’s never really had to confront it in his existence. Well, at least not until the last few years, that is. His rejection of Delirium’s search for their brother crushes his sister’s hope, and he simply leaves, thinking this will be the end of things.
But oh god, it’s not. IT’S NOT EVEN CLOSE.
I also must admit that I once again feel like quite the fool because I didn’t realize who the painter was until this issue. HIS HAIR IS RED. HOW DID I NOT FUCKING SEE THIS. It was literally in the panel where he tells Barnabas, “That’s because you’ve never met my family,” that I understood who he was. Oh, fuck. This isn’t going to end well. It just can’t! He’s clearly happy here with Barnabas. There’s some force at work here that’s trying to stop Dream and Delirium from finding Destruction, and I genuinely believe at this point that it’s not Destruction himself. Who can it be?
UGH. THE TENSION IS TOO MUCH.
Actually, Gaiman does something so brilliant here to build tension: he makes Dream doubt himself. Seriously, as Dream sat on the steps, speaking with Paramond, his entire demeanor confused me. Why was he so concerned with Ruby? Why even tell Pharamond that Ruby was dead? Why does he look so confused? I was mystified by Dream closing all the doors in his realm and seeking out Lady Bast. This wasn’t like him. Throughout this series, he’s always made it seem like it was a chore to speak to anyone else, even those he was close to.
But he actually contacts Lady Bast for help. God, I adore that she reads through his intentions through one sarcastic monologue. Again, everyone who has ever interacted with Dream for any significant length of time can recognize his behavioral patterns. She knows he wants something, and he’s probably not going to offer anything in return. I honestly didn’t expect him to ask for the location of Destruction, though. What purpose does he have in seeking out his brother? As it does for me, the entire situation unsettles Bast. Everything about this is entirely unlike Dream, and I don’t understand it. What don’t we know about him? Why does he tell Bast that he might need to find Destruction? WHAT’S GOING ON?
And it only gets worse. Lucien directs his master to his own gallery, where Delirium’s portrait is now jet black. (Wait, can I also say that one of my new favorite moments in the series is the way Mervyn’s eyes go wide when Dream walks up behind him? So lovely, I swear.) Death arrives, and she is pissed off. I can see how Dream’s obtuse emotional state can be grating, and it’s why I understand Death’s fury. Dream really doesn’t understand how he can affect others. It’s interesting to me how you can view his conversation with Death as if he’s a child. Obviously, he’s a hyper-intelligent being, but he is just so dense with her. Death is the one who has to convince him to visit her realm. Is he making excuses or does he really not understand what he’s done? I think you could read the dynamic of this situation quite a few ways, and it’s what I love about this series. It’s thick with references to existing characters, people, and mythology, but they don’t control the narrative.
AND THEN DEATH GOES TO DELIRIUM’S REALM. Oh. My. God. The artwork is PERFECT. It’s childish, strange, disorganized, chaotic… this is just fantastic. It’s so clear that Delirium is the youngest member of the Endless, but in just two pages, Gaiman toys with our expectations for these characters. Dream apologizes to Delirium. He appears to her, gaunt and young, and genuinely explains what he did wrong, offering to go with her to seek out their brother. Then he admits he likes her. And I know that might seem really simplistic and weird to say, but I love it. She is seeking his affection and validation, and it means the world to her.
They’re going to go seek out Destruction. AHHHHH, THIS IS GOING TO BE SO GOOD.
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