I’ve now read four books in THE SANDMAN series, and the main character, the protagonist the entire series is named after, remains something of a mystery to me. I suppose it’s fitting that Morpheus, the King of Dreams, the being with so many names to so many different peoples, should prove to be too ethereal to entirely pin down through the first third of the series.

In a strange way, this collection made me appreciate the previous three even more. Through the first three books, Morpheus really hadn’t been in any danger. In the first book he’s captured, but not only does it seem impossible for them to harm him once they’ve got him, but they don’t really seem all that interested in the notion of trying to harm him beyond impotent threats. In the second and third books, Morpheus is just an immortal bad ass who’s clearly superior to the story’s villains, and once he gets involved, it’s literally deus ex machina.

But in this one, as he prepares for a possible showdown with Lucifer, there’s genuine tension there. Morpheus seems pretty certain that he will lose, but he’s going there anyway. I think the reason it worked so well was the sheer contrast with the previous books. We’ve never seen Morpheus nervous before, so it makes it pretty damn frightening when he is. And I’d never have felt that way while reading it if it hadn’t been for the previous three books giving me the slow build.

Episode 4 was my favorite in this collection, the one “In which the dead return and Charles Rowland concludes his education.” The ending to this chapter was pretty powerful, and I hope we meet Charles Rowland again somewhere along the way. It seems to me like you could write a whole spin-off comic about his adventures with Paine if you wanted to.

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