The adventures of Ruin, Heather After, Jophiel, and co. have unfortunately come to an end with the arrival of the final issue of The Dreaming: Waking Hours. Spinning a tale within the Sandman universe with both new and familiar characters would seem a tricky task to get right, but the creative team has produced nothing short of a delightful comic including The Dreaming: Waking Hours #12.
After nightmare Ruin was sent back to Earth in The Dreaming: Waking Hours #11, Sorceress Heather After and fallen angel Jophiel are left to clean up the hierarchical mess in Faerie. What seemed to be leading up to a big confrontation between former King Auberon and Queen Titania and current Queen Nuala instead evolved into a message on change and power. It’s hard to stick the landing of any series, much less any story, but this was the first step to do it. In leaving the ultimate fate of Faerie off-page, G. Willow Wilson leaves ample room to wrap up the other character arcs and bring the themes around full circle.
These themes of love and dreams are all realized differently in the three main characters. Ruin desires to find the boy he likes, Heather wants to make her past struggle worth it, even Johpiel aspires to get back to Heaven — but they all want to follow their dreams in the name of love. And without too much spoiler, these themes are all resolved in a way that makes sense. In the end, The Dreaming: Waking Hours isn’t trying to be utterly complex; it’s a simple story about pursuing and fighting for your dreams. But its smooth execution is what makes it unique. Wilson does more in 22 pages than many do in a series.
If there is any criticism, it would be that the intricacy of Nick Robles’ captivating art and innovative layouts sometimes distracts from the story. This could be said about several pages, but one in this issue where a looming Dream confronts the team in the Dreaming with luscious clouds parting easily at his touch is a showstopper. It reminds the reader of his ultimate power but is also a stunning composition that can make you forget you aren’t in the Dreaming itself at the whim of Dream.
This hypnotic quality is in part due to Matheus Lopes’ colors. A soaring spectrum of pinks, purples, and blues are carefully threaded through the series and continue to serve the atmosphere of this issue well. Among other enchanting uses of hue, the colors bring a certain wondrous charm despite whatever else is happening on the page.
However, the letters by Simon Bowland in The Dreaming: Waking Hours have been a bit hit or miss, mostly due to the sometimes unreadable medieval-style font that is used between scenes. While that font is still present in this issue, the other lettering choices are fitting. The wavy text bubbles add proper voice to Dream’s demeanor and the sound effect text isn’t overused, only bringing attention to significant moments.
The Dreaming: Waking Hours #12 is what comics are for — using the limits of the visual medium to full effect to tell a compelling story that makes the reader feel something, question aspects of their reality, or at least think about something in a different way. A story that subverts narrative and societal expectations, creates characters that are fully fleshed out, and has beautiful art to tell the tale alongside the narrative direction.
It’s a shame The Dreaming: Waking Hours is only a limited series and we likely won’t get to see this trio of characters together in the same capacity. At minimum though, based on Heather After’s trajectory at the end of this issue and the connection she has within the Sandman universe, it’s possible we’ll see her again in another title.
Because of that, the future of the Sandman universe is looking bright. A picture-perfect ending for a series full of distractingly gorgeous art and irresistible storytelling, The Dreaming: Waking Hours #12 is a dream from start to finish.
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