The Dreaming: Waking Hours is the latest Sandman Universe series that should have your attention. The first issue was an elegant mix of sophisticated story building that felt right at home under the Sandman label. It was also recently spoken about by series writer G. Willow Wilson at DC FanDome, and her thoughts on the universe made me even more excited to read this. Issue #2 is out today and it’s a comic I didn’t just enjoy, but totally devoured.
Paired with issue #1, this issue gives you everything you need and more. It explains the various plots and sets in motion all the key players in the narrative. This issue also enhances the experience Lindy is going through in the Shakespeare Multiverse with fun tidbits about Shakespeare, but also a brand new lease on life for Lindy. If you ever needed proof you should read a comic series to the second issue no matter what, this is it, as it gives more context for the first issue and gets everything set for a rousing good adventure.
Split up between three locations, this issue follows Ruin and his attempt to fix the mishap with Lindy, further progresses Dream’s purpose in the story, and spends time with Lindy in the Shakespeare Multiverse. There’s enough layered here to keep your interest up as the stories bounce back and forth, and there is great character work to drive your interest in the personal stories of each character. There are delights in each for fans to enjoy.
Nick Robles has outdone himself, especially in the Dream scenes. The scene goes from the usual style and color palette — by color artist Mat Lopes — and then dives into a nightmare hellscape that’s beautiful in a way only the Sandman Universe could deliver. This scene takes you out of the narrative and drops you into a new one that’s filled with horror and unimaginable things. As with any good Sandman tale, this book is great at transporting the reader and enlivening the imagination.
You see it too in the Ruin scenes, which follow the character to a human sorceress for help. While there, we get a fascinating backstory about Ruin and the day he was born. In these scenes, again Robles draws some incredible imagery here, we learn the complicated nature of Ruin and his role as a nightmare. It’s tragic and if you’ve ever had a teacher tell you that you can’t do something you’ll relate. He soon falls in love and we gather his true purpose in the story as he attempts to make things right. This story may be the most interesting of the bunch because it suggests maybe the role characters play from the Dreaming aren’t set in stone.
This flashback changes the story — literally, as the comic changes into a different book one might read a child — with beautiful borders and masterfully framed panels. I recommend looking over these pages without reading to fully take in what Robles has done. It’s beautiful and expertly captures the otherworldly nature of the Dreaming and Ruin’s journey.
The third story follows Lindy and her growing impatience with the world around her and the inability to escape to get back to her child. These scenes have a dreamlike quality in part because Lindy isn’t freaked out, but going with the flow. There are some great factoids littered in about Shakespeare that is not only interesting but entertaining on their own. Wilson and Robles do a great job making these scenes feel natural and safekeeping our focus on a major task for Lindy to take on. There are also some neat uses of borders to help convey this part of the story is taking place outside of reality.
All of these scenes help bring out the magic of the Sandman Universe, but there’s more magic still in the characters. Wilson breathes life into each one with her use of language. You see it with the sorcerers and her little asides and flair for drama. In these flourishes, letterer Simon Bowland switches to italic to help convey the difference. Later, in the Ruin flashback scene, the letters again shift this time in color and size to help convey a dialogue via the captions. Much like the pages around this scene, the captioned text has a storybook quality.
All this, and I haven’t even spoken of the quieter moments where characters reveal themselves in between scenes, or how they react to one another. If you’re a lover of storytelling, you cannot miss Walking Hours. There’s so much in this issue I’m positively boiling over with glee thinking about it. The Dreaming: Waking Hours is enchanting, elegantly realized, and filled with wonder.
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