Nightmare Country hasn’t been spending too much time dwelling on the Sandman Universe books that came before it, preferring instead to build on that mythology. Sure, the Corinthian has spent time in The Dreaming in the series, but creators James Tynion IV, Patricio Delpeche, and Lisandro Estherren (as well as occasional guest artists and colorists such as Dani and Tamra Bonvillain, featured in this issue) seem more intent to people the world with new creatures, dreams, and monsters both literal and figurative.
Issue #4 of the series, however, spends a little time touching base with the original Sandman series, both literally and thematically.
Introduced earlier in the series, the ominously rich Teague reveals to Madison a rather grisly collection of artifacts, like a gruesome Raiders of the Lost Ark warehouse. More importantly, he admits to ambitions not too far removed from those of the Order of Ancient Mysteries, the group that captured Morpheus back in The Sandman #1. While not looking to capture a being of great power, he looks to bargain with one for information.
Much more monumentally, the issue takes a beat to dive into the life of Philip Sitz, the serial-killing fetishist editor of Chaste Magazine, who first appeared—and met his end at the hands of Corinthian—in one of the original series’ most memorable and horrifying early issues.
It’s a great bit of creative finesse to illustrate how dedicated and respectful the team is (and, indeed, the teams of all the Sandman Universe books are) to the untouchable classic that is The Sandman; Sitz is a memorable question left unanswered but is by no means one that shouldn’t be to preserve the mystique. Knowing who he is, what his motivations are, and how exactly he infiltrated that Killer Convention back in 1990 is a knowing treat, a little scratch on longtime readers’ backs, without blowing open some grand mystery better left unexplored.
As for the actual story of Nightmare Country, this fourth issue sees the stakes rising toward climax—with only two more issues, we’re careening toward conflict. This issue pulls all our moving parts together, with Mr. Agony and Mr. Ecstasy finally tracking down their target, Madison. . . and, thankfully, giving us the Corinthian himself.
Corinthian’s strange status as a sort of monstrous anti-hero in this series is a major factor of what makes this series compelling. He’s a monster, of course, and his arrival can’t lead to anything good happening, and yet the reader is excited—and a bit relieved—to see him.
Now at the halfway point, Nightmare Country remains both a loving homage to the original world in which it plays and a near-perfect self-contained horror adventure. While none of the other stories told in this world have been hard to enjoy, few of them have been as carefully subtle about their clear celebratory joy of that world.
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