June 17, 2010

Getting Graphic: "The Sandman Vol. 2: The Doll's House" by Neil Gaiman

Title: The Sandman Vol. 2: The Doll's House
Author: Neil Gaiman
Illustrators: Mike Dringenberg, Malcolm Jones III, Chris Bachalo, Michael Zulli, Steve Parkhouse
Published: DC Vertigo (1995); originally compiled in 1990
ISBN 0-930289-59-5
Call him the Sandman, or Morpheus, or Dream, or whatever tickles your fancy, but Neil Gaiman's Dream Lord character is quickly becoming one of my favorite characters in comics. And I still have something like eight volumes left to read.

Following up on the events of the first volume, in which Morpheus was imprisoned and the Dreaming World left unchecked until he eventually escaped and reclaimed his property, The Doll's House has him cleaning up some of the mess left behind in his absence. Most notably, some demons/entities have gone AWOL and are hiding in the real world, plus a human girl has come to his attention when he discovered that she is actually a vortex that threatens to dismantle the entire world of dreams.

The eight chapters of this graphic novel seem even more disparate on the surface than those of the first volume, but each one offers its own contribution to the overarching story--vicariously so for one chapter in particular (Part Four, "Men of Good Fortune"). Where Gaiman introduces us to Dream's sibling, Death, in the first volume, the second volume gives us an early glimpse of two other siblings who may have played a role in his imprisonment all those years ago: Desire and Despair.

But the story doesn't focus solely on the Sandman and his tasks of maintaining and defending the Dreaming, as readers get to know the young woman who is linked to his past and his future, Rose Walker. A bit of an inspiration for that Kristen Stewart style of brooding teen, Rose proves to be a bit more complex than that--and far more likable. After meeting her estranged grandmother in England, she's approached by the Fates and given a glimpse into the whereabouts of her little brother. In her travels to find and reunite with him that she meets an eclectic group of roommates in an old house--one that looks strikingly like her grandmother's doll house--and also an unfortunate run-in with one or more of the entities that escapes the Dreaming.

The artwork was splendid again, and seemed to have a more cohesive feel throughout the book, whereas the first volume seemed to show a wide array of art styles. Each setting and time-frame is given its own special touches though, so nothing feels exactly the same on each page, which makes for a nice balance.

Where the balance seemed to be lost for me was the meandering focus from one chapter to the next. While it was enjoyable in its own right, there were moments where the story went in one direction while I wished it to stay on its previous trajectory. Those diverging scenes were like time capsules that exploded onto the page with more jarring effect than the most imposing flashback scene from "Lost." The book was good overall, but didn't hit the same high note that the first volume attained, which may be nothing more than that old sophomore jinx that is notorious in storytelling.

Whatever the case, the book didn't thrill me, but it certainly kept me engaged and looking forward to reading the third volume in The Sandman series. And if Neil Gaiman's imagination in these books keeps delivering such entertaining and suspenseful stuff like the "cereal" killers convention, I'll be a happy camper.


1 comment:

  1. I came from Cym Lowell's Book Review Party Wednesday (BRPW)

    I haven't read much comics but if I see one of Gaiman's in a cheapstore next time I am out and about then it will now be an instant buy :)

    Cherry Mischievous

    I am a bit late in this blog rounds but still within the spirit of BRPW :)