Monday, 6 April 2020

The Dreaming, Volume 1: Pathways and Emanations Review (Simon Spurrier, Bilquis Evely)

That moody emo git Dream has buggered off on a jolly out of The Dreaming! And wouldn’t you Adam’n’Eve it, an ever-widening crack has suddenly appeared across the realm, the portal no longer keeps out danger and scores of strange blank people (“soggies”) are flooding the land. Coincidence – or just a clumsy Trump/wall metaphor? Anyhoo, Merv Pumpinhead’s taken it upon himself to find a new leader from a questionable source (though the name should’ve raised a red flag!): Judge Gallows. And who is the Dreaming’s latest denizen – the mysterious dream outlaw Dora?

So DC are having another punt at a new slew of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman spinoffs, starting with Simon Spurrier and Bilquis Evely’s The Dreaming, Volume 1: Pathways and Emanations, aaaannnddd – easy pun time – the book’ll put you to sleep! It really isn’t very interesting unfortunately.

Lucien the Librarian, Matthew the Raven, Merv Pumpkinhead, Cain and Abel - the supporting cast of The Dreaming were the supporting cast for a reason and they haven’t suddenly become more interesting now they’re shoved into the spotlight. Judge Gallows (a really obscure DC character from a ‘60s horror anthology title) is a one-dimensional villain and his origin was so boring.

Dora on the other hand is at least somewhat compelling. I don’t know if she’s being put forward as a possible replacement for Dream but she’d be a good pick. She has unique dream powers, she’s very empathetic to dreamers and she can handle herself in a fight, hulking out when she needs to. Evely’s character design for Dora is imaginative. In fact her art throughout is the most laudable aspect of the book – the pages are full of extremely creative, fun and zany imagery. Jae Lee’s covers were outstanding too (I guess Dave McKean’s done with Sandman cover art?).

The story though is just so laborious and unengaging. The Dreaming starts to fall apart, though there don’t seem to be any real consequences to dreamers everywhere, and, really, so what anyway? Not the first time it’s happened and they’ve recovered just fine. It takes an age for Gallows to appear and when he does it turns into a predictable good vs evil fight, all the while overwritten in Spurrier’s unexciting prose. For a series basically trafficking in abstract concepts, he doesn’t have many interesting ideas to offer the reader.

It might be pretty but The Dreaming, Volume 1: Pathways and Emanations is an ominously tedious beginning for this latest wave of Sandman spinoffs. Good comics from Vertigo these days? Dream on.

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