The Sandman: Master of Dreams 8 (August 1989)

The Sandman: Master of Dreams #8

Either the reader is going to buy into Gaiman’s setup for this issue or the reader is going to reject it. Even before Gaiman gets into the “meat” of the issue, which is basically a lengthy monologue from Dream about the importance of Death. Both as a natural event and as Dream’s sister.

The issue opens with them seeing each other for the first time after Dream’s escape from captivity and his quest. Gaiman goes really far on the self-aware dialogue, using Death to expound on the comic book and on its protagonist.

He also goes with an inanely cheap ending; many of Sandman’s worst moments are just ones cribbed from Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing (without any of the context).

Once again, Gaiman does a montage of regular people who he doesn’t care about. It’s slightly less tedious than the overdone immortal sibling dialogue.

Dringenberg’s art annoys too.

C- 

CREDITS

The Sound of Her Wings; writer, Neil Gaiman; penciller, Mike Dringenberg; inker, Malcolm Jones III; colorist, Robbie Busch; letterer, Todd Klein; editors, Art Young and Karen Berger; publisher, DC Comics.

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The Sandman: Master of Dreams 7 (July 1989)

The Sandman: Master of Dreams #7

Ah, the big fight issue. Doctor Destiny versus Dream for control of the Dreamworld. Or whatever it’s called. After the two stand-off in the diner, after some glimpses of the world going mad, Doctor Destiny has a trippy dream he’s Caesar and then the big fight. It’s the two of them against a white background. Not the most visceral setting for a comic book fight scene.

Gaiman has a lot of problems trying to make this issue work as a comic. He’s so wrapped up in traditions, he doesn’t just not do anything new, he doesn’t do anything worthwhile. The glimpses to the world gone mad don’t create concern, they create distance.

Dringenberg’s pencils don’t help things. The awkwardly proportioned figures change throughout, without rhyme or reason. Sandman gives the pretense of thoughtfulness and depth, but it’s generic.

There’s no sense of scale or character. Gaiman avoids writing Dream.

C 

CREDITS

Sound and Fury; writer, Neil Gaiman; penciller, Mike Dringenberg; inker, Malcolm Jones III; colorist, Robbie Busch; letterer, Todd Klein; editors, Art Young and Karen Berger; publisher, DC Comics.

The Sandman: Master of Dreams 6 (June 1989)

The Sandman: Master of Dreams #6

The issue takes place over a day at a diner. Doctor Destiny is trying to bring about the end of the world and he traps a bunch of people in the diner and slowly drives them mad. Or not slowly.

Gaiman makes the characters distinct, horrific, pitiable. He doesn’t have time to establish them as sympathetic so he doesn’t even try. Some of them he plays for laughs, others for shock value. Dringenberg takes over the pencils; he doesn’t do a particularly good job. There’s no personality to the art, especially not in the horrific scenes. Some of the talking heads stuff is decent.

The issue feels so derivative, so manipulative, it starts to get boring before the halfway point. Gaiman’s using sensational human suffering. Even when he writes a good scene, it’s still just a cheap trick in a bridging issue.

All to avoid giving Doctor Destiny a personality.

C 

CREDITS

24 Hours Diner; writer, Neil Gaiman; penciller, Mike Dringenberg; inker, Malcolm Jones III; colorist, Robbie Busch; letterer, Todd Klein; editors, Art Young and Karen Berger; publisher, DC Comics.

The Sandman: Master of Dreams 4 (April 1989)

The Sandman: Master of Dreams #4

Dream goes to Hell, which requires the Demon as a guest star. Gaiman doesn’t have anything for him to do, past rhyme a little for the protagonist and cause some mischief. It’s a pointless cameo, though Kieth and Dringenberg do fine on the Demon. They don’t do so well later, when they have to draw every demon in Hell. Actually, they do fine on the demons… they lose their hold on Dream at that point. He feels too out of place.

The issue has maybe the most narration from Dream so far and it gets tedious. He needs to outwit the demons of Hell with riddles and so on. Intentionally or not, Gaiman’s so sincere he doesn’t have any wit. It’s all very heavy and very boring.

Just when things should pick up in the second half, the comic slows, getting more tedious. So far, Dream’s boring as a lead.

C 

CREDITS

A Hope in Hell; writer, Neil Gaiman; pencillers, Sam Kieth and Mike Dringenberg; inker, Dringenberg; colorist, Robbie Busch; letterer, Todd Klein; editors, Art Young and Karen Berger; publisher, DC Comics.

The Sandman: Master of Dreams 3 (March 1989)

The Sandman: Master of Dreams #3

Dream’s quest brings him into a John Constantine story–and with Constantine comes a return of Kieth’s improbably proportions for people’s legs–but it’s the strongest issue so far. Gaiman writes Constantine really well, with enough nods to his adventures and the DC universe but never to the point he’s just filling in.

And having Constantine and Dream team-up gives the reader a somewhat human perspective on the fantastical things in the issue–especially since Constantine doesn’t know about Dream. He’s experiencing these things for the first time too.

It’s also nice how Gaiman doesn’t go too far outside the issue’s narrative. He doesn’t work on subplots, just the particular quest experience for Dream and Constantine’s strange encounter. It feels more cohesive, but it also feels a lot more organic. Gaiman’s not trying too hard.

Other than the stumpy legs, Kieth and Dringenberg do really well on the art.

B+ 

CREDITS

Dream a Little Dream of Me; writer, Neil Gaiman; pencillers, Sam Kieth and Mike Dringenberg; inker, Dringenberg; colorist, Robbie Busch; letterer, Todd Klein; editors, Art Young and Karen Berger; publisher, DC Comics.

The Sandman: Master of Dreams 2 (February 1989)

The Sandman: Master of Dreams #2

For the second issue, with Dream ending up needing help from Cain and Abel–who appropriately bookend the tale–Gaiman doesn’t do a lot except continue to setup Dream’s eventual quest. He needs to regain his talismans or whatnot; all the exposition about what’s happened to his world in his absence is secondary.

Until the end of the issue, at least, because there’s where Gaiman introduces the next steps Dream may take. It’s a promised tour of the DC supernatural universe–with Constantine–but also the superheroes. There’s a Batman connection, including an Arkham Asylum visit.

The result is Gaiman doesn’t really do anything to establish the series, which is fine, but he also has a floundering Dream. For a protagonist, in a second issue, it doesn’t help. It leaves the series–and the reader–without footing when relying on the lead.

Nicely, the art’s consistently strong throughout the issue.

B 

CREDITS

Imperfect Hosts; writer, Neil Gaiman; penciller, Sam Kieth; inker, Mike Dringenberg; colorist, Robbie Busch; letterer, Todd Klein; editors, Art Young and Karen Berger; publisher, DC Comics.

The Sandman: Master of Dreams 1 (January 1989)

The Sandman: Master of Dreams #1

Neil Gaiman starts Sandman with the world changing. Except it’s in flashback, so it’s entirely possible the reader has been living in this changed world without realizing it. Except it’s sort of in DC continuity–the Golden Age Sandman shows up–so the reader isn’t really in that world anyway. Gaiman plays with the ideas a little, but doesn’t go particularly far with them.

Sam Keith and Mike Dringenberg’s art is fantastic for these parts of the issue. Creepy, gory, but never overboard with it. They find the exact balance–and retain some physical humor in the art. It’s great.

Then the titular character comes in and, all of a sudden, Keith can’t draw figures in the right proportion anymore. And Gaiman’s narrating from Dream’s perspective (he doesn’t get named yet but still), but only from the second half of the issue or later.

It’s disjointed overall, but pretty good.

B 

CREDITS

Sleep of the Just; writer, Neil Gaiman; penciller, Sam Kieth; inker, Mike Dringenberg; colorist, Robbie Busch; letterer, Todd Klein; editors, Art Young and Karen Berger; publisher, DC Comics.

Dark Horse Presents 85 (May 1994)

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This issue might be the first where there’s nothing great, but nothing bad. Everything is just solid. In fact, everything is ambitious too. Well, except maybe Star Riders, which appears to be a tie-in to a roll playing game.

Johnson and Dringenberg’s opener is about an Imperial Japanese artist who’s a little too good at his work. Dringenberg’s emotive artwork–and especially his panel designs–do well. Johnson’s a little pretentious, but it’s a ghost story set in Imperial Japan appearing in an American comic… not much chance it wasn’t going to be pretentious.

Janes and Plunkett’s Eighth Wonder is about a scientist aiding in the construction of a huge bridge. It’s in a steampunk setting and it’s generally fine. It goes on a little long though.

Star Riders (from Gagnon and Racine) is harmless space adventure stuff. It’s not too technical; it worries more about being fun instead.

CREDITS

The Painted Horse; story by Kij Johnson; art by Mike Dringenberg; lettering by Steve Dutro. The 8th Wonder, Part One; story by Peter Janes; art by Kilian Plunkett; lettering by Vickie Williams. Star Riders, Part One; story by Étienne Gagnon and Edward Martin III; art by Alex Racine; lettering by Williams. Edited by Randy Stradley.

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