The Dreaming: Waking Hours has been a testament to how fantasy worlds can come alive under the right creative team. G. Willow Wilson, Nick Robles, and Mat Lopes have shown us The Sandman universe is alive and well, even when main characters from that narrative aren’t at the forefront. This new series plays around with the Dreaming realm while supplying us with vividly real characters that slowly become so familiar it’s hard to shake the idea that they aren’t real. In this fifth issue that closes out the first story arc, Ruin attempts to risk it all to save a human woman trapped in the Dreaming, while said woman makes a few discoveries of her own.
Setting the stage, this issue opens with Ruin being found out at the Worlds’ End bar, Lindy has just given birth in the Shakespeare Multiverse, and Jophiel is walking the streets of Earth with Lindy’s baby hoping for a successful saving of Lindy. Dream is not happy about any of this least of which because his Nightmare Ruin has somehow escaped his realm and he’s not sure how. It all needs to be sorted and Wilson and Robles do so in a way that creates something more by the book’s end.
This is a well-crafted issue, supplying action via Ruin and his nightmare powers and deep meaning via Lindy’s conclusions as she’s confronted with a birthed old man. Within this narrative is a deeply thoughtful and warm idea about our relationship with literature and storytelling. Lindy has been fighting to understand which version of Shakespeare is real, and her conclusion helps codify all of our relationships to material, but also those who demand we have answers. It’s not necessarily a new idea, but it’s well-told here.
The bigger story involves Ruin, who Dream has considered destroying throughout this series. In a way, this first arc is more about the creation of a new type of dream for future Sandman universe storytelling, and for that, this issue accomplishes a lot. We know from solicitations this story continues and it’s nice to see Ruin take up a sturdier role.
Dream continues to be an interesting yet casual god that which him. Like dreaming, Dream is aware yet in no rush to do things. The character is more present than ever in the modern Sandman stories, but that makes a lot of sense since he’s not the point of it all anymore. In fact, his approach is so conflicted averse it makes the ending feel a bit light on drama.
The art by Robles and Lopes is stunning as always. There’s a double-page layout of Ruin exhibiting his nightmare abilities and it’s at once gross and beautiful in its depiction. Robles somehow puts clothes on a giant tentacle monster and it helps convey the transformation. The scenes with Jophiel and the baby stand out thanks to the glow of an Angel that looks otherworldly. Later, when Jophiel is in Lindy’s home, the lighting is warm and inviting, further cementing the happy ending for the character.
The Dreaming: Waking Hours is an excellent series capped off by a satisfying ending for its first story arc. Once again, this series is littered with moments of great and sublime beauty.
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