The Dreaming: Waking Hours has become one of my favorite series of 2020 for plenty of reasons. G. Willow Wilson is writing great characters embroiled in fantastical worlds well worth experiencing. This is a story that wholly feels part of Neil Gaiman’s universe, but also does something new and well worth reading. Nick Robles and Mat Lopes are mixing up styles to create a visceral experience across realms. It’s the entire package and issue #3 is out this week to enjoy the characters and get to the bottom of multiple plots that are dangling.
There are three plots going on in this series, all of which get ample time and focus so things feel like they’re moving along. This issue builds off of The Dreaming: Waking Hours #2 well, as Lindy is trapped in the Shakespeare Multiverse, a nightmare named Ruin is attempting to get save Lindy and reunite her with her baby, and Dream wants to know how Ruin escaped the Dreaming. This issue does well to connect Ruin’s narrative to Dream’s while also building up the fact that sorcerers Heather isn’t quite as powerful as everyone thought. Or maybe she’s just having a bad day. Meanwhile, Wilson puts Lindy in control of her situation, which helps show how strong and smart she is while also revealing a bit about her in the process.
These scenes with Heather help show how the Dreaming, and magic in general, is not an exact science. Mistakes can be made, and we even see it with Dream attempting to figure out how the creation of his could ever escape his realm. In these mistakes, there is an opportunity — this very series is proof of that — which in effect makes the cliffhanger all the more interesting. It also helps inform other elements of the work, like how Lindy is potentially uncovering a long-held secret truth about Shakespeare via the dreaming world she is in.
Once again, you may be completely blown away by Robles and Lopes’ work. Each scene has a different style and color palette, including the nightmare hellscape Dream is currently in as he communicates with nightmares. There’s a beauty to each scene, from the more conventional comic book feel of Ruin’s scenes to the trippy visuals in Lindy’s and the horrific yet beautiful nightmare scenes. The visuals do a lot of the work in making the book look and feel magical. The Sandman Universe may only have one book currently going, but the art is doing well to capture the nature of the series and the limitless possibilities.
If I were to find any faults in this work it might be how slowly the plots are moving. On one hand, it’s juggling three interesting plots, but on the other Ruin and Heather didn’t make much progress. Dream isn’t either, though as I pointed out above the lack of progress is informing other elements of the book.
The Dreaming: Waking Hours is one of the best comics on the shelf this year and likely one of the most satisfying reads you’ll pluck off the shelf this week. The blending of three narratives — each of which with highly realized and interesting characters — wrapped in a visually stunning package makes this a must-read for fantasy lovers the world over.
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