In the seventy-first issue of The Sandman, multiple people enter the Dreaming to pay the Dream Lord their last respects, while the new Dream Lord struggles with his responsibilities. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Sandman.
Chapter Two: In Which a Wake is Held
It’s interesting to me that the wake isn’t quite held in an official manner in this issue. Instead, it’s as if the wake is happening to us. We get to witness many characters who once appeared in this series – as well as some new faces – recount what their experience was like with Dream. It’s not always happy or wistful. Often, people aren’t exactly happy with what he did to them. But it’s the honesty of this wake that makes this such a meaningful and memorable issue.
I love that it opens with two very powerful lines: “Everybody’s here. You’re here.” It’s true, but there’s one exception: the new Dream, who was once Daniel, cannot attend his own wake. The book of Ceremony prohibits this, and I could tell that Dream was already struggling with what it meant to be the lord of the Dreaming. This is a position controlled by rules, and those rules aren’t always in the favor of Dream. So he stays behind, alone, in the heart of the Dreaming as the whole of existence begins to show up to pay their last respects to Morpheus.
It’s a special moment in time for a number of reasons. On this day, Cain does not slay his newly-resurrected brother, Abel. Many of those who knew Morpheus fall into sleep, even those who don’t want to, and they collect in the Dreaming. Most characters reflect on the meaning of dreams and of the Lord of the Dreaming himself. The first to do so is Calliope. She kind of sets the tone for how this will unfold. While she admits to loving Morpheus, she’s not afraid to brutally criticize the being who left her and Orpheus in such a miserable condition. “I am here to say goodbye to a stranger who once did me a good turn,” she says, and she’s right. Morpheus became a stranger to her over the years, choosing to stay distant because of some “offense” she caused, and it’s a sign of how terrible he would treat other people.
But this issue mostly focuses on Matthew’s refusal to accept his boss’s death. He fights with Mervyn about Mervyn’s resurrection by the new Dream Lord. He then goes to the new Dream, argues with him about his role, and treats him dismissively. The guy just started as the lord of the Dreaming, and he tries to vocalize his fear to Matthew. Understandably so, Matthew just isn’t interested. He’s still blaming himself for Morpheus’s death while desiring his own.
Gaiman also takes the chance to wrap up a few dangling character threads, such as Nuala’s journey out of Faerie and the identity of the boggart who spoke to her. It’s actually nice that some of these smaller bits are addressed. It was certainly unexpected, and I like the idea that this wake brings closure to other people, even if it has nothing to do with Dream’s death at all. But in Matthew’s case, he finds out that the new Dream was actually the one who had spared his life. Even in his infancy (literally), Dream saved Matthew. To me, it’s the turning point in Matthew’s grief. On top of that, the new Dream promises to send Matthew to “wherever it is that ravens go when they’ve had enough.” It means that Matthew can choose his end, too, sort of like what Morpheus did at the end of The Kindly Ones. When Matthew later talks to Lucien about Dream’s motivations, Lucien makes a relevant point: Dream either had to change who he was, or he had to die. So how much is Matthew willing to change? Or will he choose to simply move on?
But not everyone is pleased or satisfied with this wake. Lyta Hall has lost her son and come to understand that he’s replaced the being she once blamed for the kidnapping of Daniel. She’s very cold and bitter to Rose Walker, and I don’t get the sense that she’s going to change her mind. Why should she? She’s lost everything in the process of this otherworldly battle, and now she’s been drawn into the Dreaming anyway. That’s kind of fucked up, isn’t it?
I also have decided that I’m not the biggest fan of Thessaly? You know, it sucks that Dream turned into a distant asshole to you. It does! It’s not a fun experience. But what she did to him (while totally using Lyta in the process) set this horrible thing into motion, and I kind of can’t care about her crying over Dream? Like, wow, you are sad. Dream is dead. Yes, he chose to die, but look what happened because of what you did! I give no fucks about Thessaly. (Actually, I am in love with the way Michael Zulli drew her. HIS STYLE IS SO REALISTIC.)
This issue ends with a few fantastic moments. First, OH MY GOD, IT’S SUPERMAN, BATMAN, AND THAT MARTIAN DUDE WHOSE NAME I FORGOT. (I Googled: Martian Manhunter!) Oh my god, they are sharing their dreams. And then John Constantine, Doctor Occult, and I DON’T KNOW are talking about their trenchcoats. Bless. BLESS.
On a much more serious note, Matthew approaches the rest of the Family, where Destiny asks Matthew to speak about Dream during his wake. He agrees! Oh god, I am going to weep during that part, aren’t I? But my favorite part of perhaps this entire issue is when Matthew and Barnabas speak openly about Tom Sawyer. In a way, I almost thought it would be like Dream to show up halfway through his own funeral. But then I thought about it, and I agree with Barnabas. That’s not really like him at all. He never really had that sense of humor.
Oh fuck, the wake is next, isn’t it?
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