October 7, 2010

Getting Graphic: "The Sandman Vol. III: Dream Country" by Neil Gaiman

The Sandman Vol. 3: Dream Countryby Neil Gaiman
Illustrated by Kelley Jones, Charles Vess, Colleen Doran, Malcolm Jones III
DC Comics Vertigo (1995); series originally published in 1990
ISBN 1-56389-016-x
Where the two previous volumes of The Sandman have had a fairly focused storyline, Dream Country strikes a different chord, offering four stand-alone stories in the Sandman library. All things considered, it serves as a nice diversion from Morpheus' personal tale and turns the focus again to lesser characters through which we get to learn a little more about the master of dreams.
The first story is called "Calliope" and tells of a distraught novelist eager to make as big an impact with his sophomore novel as he did with his debut. But his imagination is tapped and he needs inspiration, which comes in the form of an enslaved muse whom he purchases from a renowned author now living in seclusion. The gorgeous woman named Calliope is an immortal and former lover of the Sandman, and who do you think she winds up seeking for help when she wants to finally be rid of her proverbial chains?
In the second story called "A Dream of a Thousand Cats", a meeting is held in a cemetery. And all of those attending are cats. A feline vagabond has arrived to tell of a time when cats were the dominant species and a dream that they might one day reclaim their dominance over humanity.
Then there is "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and the story of the Sandman's relationship with William Shakespeare. After commissioning ol' Shakes to write his comedic farce, A Midsummer Night's Dream, the Sandman arranges for those who are the inspiration for the tale to be its first audience.
And finally, Gaiman offers up "Facade". This one features a character from the DC universe named Element Girl, a superhero with the ability to transform herself into nearly any element or molecule. Sadly, she is a tragic, disfigured woman unable to reclaim her former beauty and secludes herself in an apartment wishing for a way to die. When Dream's sister Death shows up by chance, Element Girl just might find a way to do just that.
The four stories are quite disparate in tone and subject matter, but all of them were really entertaining. The collection is yet another example of Gaiman's boundless imagination and ability to incorporate the imaginations of others into his own work. The book, however, felt too short to be called satisfying. Where the first two volumes, Preludes & Nocturnes and The Doll's House, had the air of sweeping epics, Dream Country felt like a modest anthology. I suppose it's a compliment to say I enjoyed something so much I only wanted more, but when I finished the fourth and final story I was left mumbling, "That's it?"
I guess I'll have to hope the fourth volume, Seasons of Mists, will offer a heartier reading experience.


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