Saturday, July 5, 2014

The Sandman, Volume 2: The Doll's House

What was once my favorite arc of one of my favorite series gets taken down a notch or two....

 THE SANDMAN, VOLUME 2: THE DOLL'S HOUSE revolves around Rose Walker, a young woman with mysterious ties to Unity Kincaid, a character we met in SANDMAN #1, who suffered from "The sleepy sickness" when Morpheus was imprisoned for decades. Rose's story encompasses runaway denizens of The Dream Realm, a serial killer's convention, the new appearance of a familiar face from the DC Universe, a missing child held captive by abusive relatives, and a boarding house full of the weirdest tenants ever.

 Previous readings of this volume, both in monthly chunks and in collected editions, have always enthralled me, especially Gaiman's ferocious creation The Corinthian, a violent escapee from the realm of Morpheus. Reading this new edition at the same time as THE ANNOTATED SANDMAN, VOLUME 1 has revealed some serious flaws in the storytelling that never made themselves visible to me until now, mainly how disjointed and on-the-fly the storyline is. (Gaiman himself says this, in not so many words, in the annotated edition of issue #15, where he admits to worrying that he might not be able to pull this story off, or provide a convincing ending.)

 In true Gaiman fashion, he does manage to pull it all together, and magnificently so. The disjointed feeling is probably not something anyone would pick up on until they'd given the arc numerous re-readings, but it is there. The collection starts off with a fable that shows just what a cold, spiteful dick Morpheus can be, as we find out the story behind the woman that he encountered in Hell in Volume 1; From there, THE DOLL'S HOUSE itself starts, with a break midway through for a one-off story that introduces The Sandman's immortal friend Hob Gadling. Then it's back to the main story. Gaiman manages to make all of this flow smoothly, but the combination of repeated readings, and the bits and pieces gleaned from THE ANNOTATED SANDMAN give me the feeling that a lot of this was done off the cuff, by someone who was still feeling his way around the pressures and deadlines of a monthly comic. (The main story arc begins with a hint of a plot against Morpheus by his siblings Desire and Despair, but nothing comes of this until much later, when Gaiman gracefully takes the dropped thread back up and seamlessly, beautifully, re-integrates it back into the main narrative.) Don't take my comments the wrong way: This book is still a rock-solid read, a 9 out of 10. Disjointed though it may be, Gaiman on his worst day is still a joy to read. This is great stuff.

 THE SANDMAN, VOLUME 2: THE DOLL'S HOUSE collects issues 9-16 of THE SANDMAN, with all covers, and an introduction by Clive Barker.

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