Sandman Vol 2: The Doll’s House
By Neil Gaiman
Okay, so I need to come clean. The first time I’ve heard of Neil Gaiman was when the movie Coraline came out. Yup, gone through my entire adolescence and beginning of adulthood not knowing who this man was. I feel ripped off for some reason thinking back.
Thankfully my friend had a copy of Coraline that I was able to ready before we went to the movie. I was completely awed by the way the man was able to make a children’s story so terrifying! Needless to say, I was eager to read more of his work. That was when my friend suggested Sandman, however it would take a few years afterwards until I managed to secure the first volume of Sandman of my own.
Last year actually… we were at Fan Expo and I told my friend (same one) that I want to find the Sandman book to read. It was then she clarified it was a graphic novel. (Facepalm!) Still, I managed to find volume 1, and just a few weeks ago picked up volume 2. Comic books have never been part of my childhood, and it wasn’t until I got into anime that I began to read Manga, and later some comic books/volumes, in particular the Runaway series.
So Sandman was really the second comic series i’ve read. I loved it. I was also blown away by the adult graphic content, the intense storyline, and amazing artwork. I’ll do a quick recap of vol. 1 before heading into vol 2. Sandman Vol. 1 is a basic origin story in my eyes. It follows ‘Dream’ one of the Endless who is imprisoned by humans for decades by mistake. They had wanted to capture Death, but got Dream instead. During his time in captivity; where he patiently remains, awaiting the perfect time to escape; repercussions of the absence of the Sandman grows. People either sleep continuously, or receive unusual or terrifying nightmares. The balance it seems is off. By the time Dream escapes, his items of power have been distributed across the earth and realms. He then goes on a quest to reclaim is lost items and power.
My favorite chapter of Vol 1 is 8, the last one where Dream in contemplating his life. He has acquired all of his items but his kingdom is in ruins. It is his older sister Death who comes and cheers him up. Dream doesn’t say much but tags along as Death does her duties. Through that he regains his perspective and meaning to his life. It’s a very touching chapter and I love how Death is portrayed!
The one issue i’ve noticed, in comparison with Vol 2, is that for some reason the first Vol. is choppy in some way. I think it’s because there are so many characters that only appear for one chapter, then we don’t hear from them again. The story is still great, but Vol. 2 has a bit more constancy in relation to recurring characters.
Which brings me into Vol. 2, which surrounds a girl named Rose.
The volume actually begins with an African rite of passage with an old man taking a young warrior out into a desert to tell him a story about ‘Dream’, his first love and how there is repercussion for him falling in love with a human. At first, it just seems like a great background story on Dream, but near the end of the volume I feel that there is a deeper meaning behind the story, as we are then introduced to ‘Desire’ and ‘Despair’. We learn that Desire is plotting against Dream, that s/he had a pat to play in the story from earlier of the woman and Dream. What exactly is s/he’s ultimate goal is a mystery. We get the idea that this is a game, and nothing more which makes Desire far more dangerous in my mind. Desire tells Despair of a Vortex, and that it is a woman. There is a smile that we the reader know that something is amiss.
From there we pick up on Rose’s story. We learn she is the granddaughter from one of the characters from Vol. 1, and that she along with her mother are reunited with her grandmother. A touching reunion, but it is overshadowed by the mention of Roses’ brother, and the three witches (again characters from vol 1), who warn Rose of her upcoming battle.
I really enjoy this story, and really liked Rose’s character as she tries to track down her missing brother. Of course, Dream is not far behind. Rose, we learn in the Vortex, and Dream is keeping an eye on her, while at the same time tracking down his own missing members of his kingdom. One by one, they are tracked down and dealt with, yet because of the Vortex, they all seem to converge around Rose in one way or another.
Of course learn after reading more of Neil Gaiman that his skill at adding the creeps, the terror into his story is common place and there are a number of scenes that gnaws at me like a horror movie does. (It’s the Serial Killer’s conference that gets to me!) I won’t give anything away, as much as I know Sandman is not new, I don’t want to be the one to give away too much of the ending of this volume just in case there are others, like me, who have not yet managed to read Sandman.
There is one chapter in middle of the story that is a little out of place, but cute none-the-less. “The Prior Engagement”. For this we go back in time to England during the Dark Ages, or Middle ages. Death, along with Dream visit a pub, where a man goes on about how he doesn’t believe in death, that he will never die because of this belief. Dream then comes forward and says that if that is the case, he would meet the man in 100 years, at the same pup, at the same time. The deal is struck to the chorus of laughter to the other patrons. We fast forward a hundred years and the man from before is there, and he and Dream chat.
The meetings continue, Dream telling him he is right, that as long as he does not wish for Death, Death will not come. Through these meetings, a relationship is formed. We learn and see the passage of time, the good fortunes of the man, as well as his fall and decline, though he still does not wish for death as there is much more to life. He then goes on to say that the real reason Dream continues to show is that he his lonely. For some reason I knew Dream would over react, and storm out. But… the last scene is of present time, and he man is waiting in the same pub, now turned cafe, and Dream appears, as an old friend and they continue with their chat.
I can’t really explain, but i love this chapter, there is a humanity behind it. Despite not dying or aging, the man doesn’t get too proud in his life, maybe his decline helped his perspective but it really seemed he viewed life with open eyes, enjoying the changes and evolution of humankind. I get the feeling he wants to see where humankind goes from, continually wanting to not only observe but be part of it. It’s touching, and well written.
I’ll end my little review here. I feel now after reading ‘The Doll’s House’, Sandman has his own story to tell, there is a good lead up to what plans Desire has in store, as I’m sure s/he will be part of the future storyline. I really have no clue what is to come though, which is really exciting in it’s own way. I know I would love to see more of the ‘Dreamworld’, as there seems to be a vast place that we have only seen a portion of so far. Dream himself still seems to be a mystery to me, though being an ‘Endless’ i’m sure there is plenty of stories to be told and I am am eager to continue reading this series.
For any of you who have not had the pleasure, please pick up a copy of Sandman, you will not be disappointed.