In the last post, I mentioned that very little action happens in issue 2. But just because little seems to be happening, it doesn’t mean the Sandman team isn’t doing a ton.
Here’s where I say Spoilers are coming. I hope that doesn’t get annoying, but as Stan Lee said, every comic book is someone’s first, and my theory is that must be true of blog posts, too.
Issue two is our introduction to The Dreaming; Sandman’s kingdom and place of power. It is withered and broken with his long absence. This is one of the first concepts in Sandman that blows my mind. There is a symbiotic relationship between Sandman and his creations. For example, we are told on Page 13 of issue 2 that a few years after Sandman is imprisoned the words in the books in his library vanished. Then the books. Then the room collapsed and disappeared. Without The Dream King, the Dream Realm decays. It doesn’t necessarily blow my mind that they attempted to create this, it blows my mind that they pulled it off.
It probably works because this relationship moves both ways. A weakened Dream asks for two certificates he created for Cain and Able (the biblical brothers who also live in The Dreaming because comics frickin’ rule). Dream destroys the certificates and reabsorbs the power he put into them millennia ago. Sort of an “Energy can neither be created nor destroyed; rather, it transforms from one form to another,” but in a magical sense.
Cool parlor trick.
But it is so much more than that.
It is a seed planted. Issue 2 is short on action, but it is full of seeds planted which will grow throughout the series and pay off in ways I simply didn’t imagine when first reading.
I mentioned Dream destroying the certificates and reabsorbing their power. Five issues later, Dream encounters Doctor Destiny.
If you are like me, the name Doctor Destiny meant nothing to you until you read Sandman. But he’s just a cute, misunderstood, sweetie poo who…
…HOLY SHIT HE JUST MURDERED THAT NICE WOMAN HE BEFRIENDED. JESUS TOMATOES!
This moment destroyed me. It was my first hint that Gaiman was not going to write a book I was going to be able predict. And no matter how many times I tried to predict what was about to happen, I was almost always wrong.
Doctor Destiny comes into possession of Dream’s Ruby. Remember this first arc is mostly about Dream searching for the three tools of power he had stolen from him at his capture. His Helm, his Sandbag and his Ruby. The Helm is in the hands of a demon, his bag of sand will be located next issue, but I want to stick with the Ruby for now.
The Ruby has been altered since Sandman last possessed it; only answering to Doctor Destiny. A development that weakens Sandman immeasurably, but also allows Doctor Destiny to warp reality if he chooses. Which of course, he does. When they meet face to face, Doctor Destiny realizes how much power he has over Dream. He chooses to destroy the Ruby, because by his logic that will kill Dream.
And it certainly looks like it works
(I may have to have a talk about how this page communicates some day in the future. It’s so interesting in and of itself).
But, we know from the seed planted issues before (even if just subconsciously) that when an object created with Dream’s power is destroyed that power returns to:
Dream a (Big Ass) Dream for me.
It works, because the escape route was designed early enough to be forgotten and small enough to seem insignificant. So when it saves Morpheus’ behind, we not only accept it, we rejoice in it.
Remember when planting seeds. If you it clumsily, your audience will guess your ending, leaving your story severely impacting their enjoyment. Do it too late, or forget altogether, and you’ll be accused of Deus ex Machina. Many of you will know what Deus ex Machina is, but if it’s new to you, it is loosely translated as “God from the Machine (It was taught to me that it means The Hand of God – which though I now know is incorrect, actually makes sense to me. I don’t know, I literally just decided to check that out online cockily, only to have my world rocked, so don’t mind me. Check this out and see what’s best for you: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deus_ex_machina ).
When a writer is hit with the Deus ex Machina criticism they probably wrote an ending where the protagonists are saved out of the blue. So named because plays in ancient Greece often lead their characters into a climactic battle that was literally unwinnable, until Zeus walked in and said, “It’s cool, Daddio (if my translations of ancient greek text, are correct, and I’m sure they are).”
I tangeted, so I’ll finish Sandman issue 2 next week with a few more seeds planted and an admission of why I’m the Able of my family’s Cain and Able. You can find that post here:
All images Copyright DC Comics, used under the fair use doctrine.