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Wesley Dodds: The Sandman #2
DC Comics

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‘Wesley Dodds: The Sandman’ #2 flirts with a deeper, historic fear

A mask signifying the gruesome deaths of thousands by chemical mutilation.

The very core of Wesley Dodds’ Sandman seems tied up in PTSD – his father’s, potentially his own, and the entire world’s.

This is a world with the shadow of the Great War looming over it; the memory of mustard gas must linger in the minds of many – particularly those men who served or knew men who served in the trenches. In the first issue, Wesley goes so far as to explain that his father’s experience with the gas left him haunted until his death.

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Wesley Dodds: The Sandman #2
DC Comics

Imagine, then, the horrifying presence of the Sandman – looming out of the shadows, a mask signifying the gruesome deaths of thousands, pumping gas at criminals with that lingering memory of chemical mutilation. One might think that artist Riley Rossmo’s artwork — more cartoon than realistic — might undercut that horror, but the opposite is true: the scratchy, exaggerated figures and faces somehow land the iconic fright harder, both in drawing the Sandman and in drawing people’s reactions to him. Even Tom Napolitano’s wispy lettering for the Sandman’s voice imparts a sort of spectral spookiness.

Wesley Dodds: The Sandman #2
DC Comics

The realization, in this series, that Wesley accidentally created a host of other terrible, deadly gases in his (perhaps macabre) quest to figure out his weapons-grade sleeping gas hits a lot harder when you take all this into account. The gases he created – mustard-like, one assumes, though yet unseen – are the very terror he had hoped to eliminate.

Wesley Dodds: The Sandman #2
DC Comics

Honestly, it’s a weird hobby/obsession for a man who was raised on his dad’s sweaty, PTSD-soaked fever dreams.

At one point in Wesley Dodds: The Sandman #2, Wesley considers his motivations: his sleep gas was meant for military deployment, a way of incapacitating the enemy without killing them. He asks himself a telling, self-delusional question: does that make him a pacifist? That those gases are out, now – his journal of chemical formulae now stolen by an unknown thief – answers a resounding no. Wesley Dodds, you’re a war criminal.

The issue provides some of the more compelling action inherent to the character as he engages a little light legal espionage, breaking into the police station to photograph documents, and it also gives us a dust-up at a department store for good measure. None of that provides the narrative tension, however (though it does allow Wesley to stick his ‘pacifist’ smoke gun deep into a man’s mouth). Instead, our story concerns itself with a sort of pre-emptive guilt. As he struggles to solve the case of his missing murder formulae, he also struggles with understanding the damage someone can do, the blood that can stain his hands.

Wesley Dodds: The Sandman #2
DC Comics

The issue ends with the revelation that all of these fears are likely to be realized: a sort of anti-Sandman, a Negaduck, garbed in black and wearing that horrifying gas mask. A villain who will deliver on the promise that the Sandman’s very image implies to the men he attacks: horrible, choking death.

Wesley Dodds: The Sandman #2
‘Wesley Dodds: The Sandman’ #2 flirts with a deeper, historic fear
Wesley Dodds: The Sandman #2
Without expressly spoon-feeding the reader the cultural context, Wesley Dodds: The Sandman still implies the gravity of weaponized gas -- and of Wesley's culpability in using them.
Reader Rating1 Votes
8.5
Expressive and moody artwork.
A compellingly conflicted protagonist.
The introduction of a more gruesome threat.
Appropriately hard-boiled.
Its action barely relates to the mystery at hand.
The supporting cast -- established in earlier versions of the Sandman story -- have yet to find a place to shine.
8
Good
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