THE SANDMAN: DREAM COUNTRY by Neil Gaiman

DREAM COUNTRY consists of four different stories — Calliope, Dream of a Thousand Cats, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Facade. Of the four, I probably like Dream of a Thousand Cats the most. Interestingly, Morpheus, the titular character, is only a secondary character in all the stories, and doesn’t even make an appearance in Facade.

Calliope, in which a writer purchases a captured muse and keeps her prisoner while Morpheus too was captured in the first SANDMAN books, was interesting to me primarily because of the backstory it hints at with Morpheus. Once Morpheus comes on the scene, he wraps things up easily, but along the way we learn that Morpheus once loved Calliope and had a child with her, though who that child is and where he/she is isn’t revealed. We’re also told that Morpheus and Calliope had a falling out over something to do with the child.

Dream of a Thousand Cats tells the story from the perspective of the cats — something that’s been done often enough that the idea seems borderline cliche to me now — but the story he tells from the cats’ perspective is compelling, and the humor at the end was a nice touch. It’s a sign of Gaiman’s talent that he takes an idea I’ve read several times before but does it so exceptionally well that I don’t mind at all.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream is the issue that won the World Fantasy Award — the only comic book to ever win the award — and I can see why. It was a story that was actually set up in the previous book, when Morpheus offered Shakespeare an unspoken deal, and that actually impresses me as much as anything Gaiman does in the story, which aims high and hits the mark. Nothing much really happens in the way of action, which is probably why it isn’t my favorite of the stories, but it’s a nice homage to Shakespeare from the best British fantasy author of this generation.

The final story, Facade, was probably my least favorite. It’s a bit depressing, and centers around a character I believe already existed within the D.C. Comics universe, but I have no idea who she is. It’s a sad little tale, but the character was only briefly introduced and her story isn’t very long, so while she’s a sympathetic character, I’m not terribly invested in her fate one way or the other.

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