A GAME OF YOU by Neil Gaiman

It’s fitting that I sat down and read A GAME OF YOU so close to Halloween. Of all the SANDMAN comics I’ve read so far, this is by far the one that’s most disturbing for me and I’m not sure I can explain why, which really just makes it all the more unnerving. Gaiman has shown that he’s perfectly willing to write SANDMAN comics in which the title character is all but completely absent, and this is another of those stories. This one is built around Barbie, a character we met back during the Rose Walker saga, and what happens when some characters from a dying dream world come after her.

Barbie’s almost a completely different character in this one — she’s living in New York, is best friends with a drag queen and now instead of being mind-numbingly mainstream, she paints her face and goes window shopping at places where she can’t afford any of the items.

When she gets pulled into the dream world, we’re introduced to a slew of the toys from her childhood who are now characters helping her to fight the evil “Cuckoo.” And just because Barbie’s former stuffed toys are childlike little creatures — a monkey, a bird and a rat in a raincoat — it doesn’t save them from some pretty grisly deaths that are drawn in a way that doesn’t spare us any of the brutality. At the end of the day, that may be what creeped me out the most in the story — I could see that her friends were going to be picked off one by one, and the cartoonists don’t spare us any of the visuals — it’s all blood and gore and contorted corpses, and in the process it taints this childlike fantasy world, making it someplace even darker than it ever could be otherwise. .

And the toys aren’t the only ones dying. A couple people from the real world die as well in a way that doesn’t seem particularly heroic, it all just seems kind of pointless and depressing. There are ironies throughout the story, Gaiman’s little humorous touches in the dialogue and the details, but in all this story is subtly dark and hopeless. In the end, this story just reminds me that it’s kind of a cruel, uncaring world, and I’m not certain I really needed the reminder.

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