In the seventy-fourth issue of The Sandman, an exiled man comes across Dream in a desert at two points in Dream’s life, and it forever changes his destiny. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Sandman.
Largely, the artist for “Exiles,” Jon J Muth, eschews any sort of traditional comic book style, and MY GOD, IT IS SO FUCKING PRETTY. This is a gorgeous, evocative story, one that fits rather well in this volume. In a way, it allows us to remember Dream as he once was: a powerful entity who could help people lost in the Dreaming. (When he wanted to, of course.) “Exiles” is structured like a parable, but it also serves to give us another glimpse of what Daniel Hall is like as Dream.
I think it’s with this issue that I noticed that a lot of this series concerns characters that are “lost.” Dream starts out that way in the very beginning, and over the course of this seventy-five issue story, he meets countless people who are lost in their own way, too. In the case of the man exiled from the kingdom he belonged to in China, he is lost both physically and metaphorically. He wanders the desert with a guide, seeking out a place called Wei, where he will live out the remaining years of his life. His son is dead, and despite that he believes he was loyal to the Emperor, he’s lost his people. What does he have left? A few years in a strange city, completely alone?
Nope, because HE HAS A KITTY! Oh my god, its eyes are blue. Okay, seriously, it’s interesting to me that it is the kitten who brings the man to Dream. Even all the way out here in the desert, where there’s hardly enough food to keep the guide and the man alive, the man still takes on another life to take care of. How was the kitten lost? I wonder. Somehow, though, both the kitten and the man find their way into one of the Soft Places. Oh god, I love the reference back to “Soft Places.” Here, though, the exiled man finds a sort of common ground in Dream. This first time the man speaks with Dream, it appears to be a version of Dream that we knew in the very beginning of the series, probably around volume two or so. But does Morpheus know what’s going to happen? I could tell that the second appearance was of Daniel, not Morpheus, but the small tale Dream tells about a sage who did not mourn for his dead son sounds a lot like Orpheus. It’s as if Dream is foreshadowing his own life and what is to come of him. The exiled man tells Dream that grief and mourning is a way of moving on from death, and that’s going to be a very important part of Dream’s life later on.
The weird dream sequence that the exiled man goes through is really creepy, especially that image of the ventriloquist dummy at the edge of the cliff. NO, THANK YOU. It also made me kind of sad, as I don’t have much time left in this fictional world. I love the weirdness of the Dreaming! There aren’t many dreams left that I’ll get to see like this one. But things must come to an end, and there’s a beautiful sense of closure to Dream’s story in this issue. When Master Li returns to Dream, Dream is now Daniel Hall. And he is all the wiser after what Morpheus learned before him. There’s a reference to Dream smashing the emerald and to creating his own trap, and that means that this Dream is not going to repeat the same mistakes. We already saw in the third chapter that Daniel acts differently than the last iteration of the Dream Lord. I think it’s entirely possible that since they are the same being, just different versions, that this Dream could improve the Dreaming. “Everything changes, but nothing is truly lost,” Dream tells Master Li. And things have changed drastically for the Dreaming over the course of The Sandman. But this version of Dream hasn’t lost what came before. It’s time for things to start anew, yes, but that does not make the past obsolete.
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