Note: This is a little something that was in the works before we went on extended hiatus.
Sandman Going Steady is our monthly review roundup of books from the Sandman Universe. While the world works from home and quarantines itself, a silver lining is that readers may be able to get through some of their backlog of books. If you’ve been meaning to check out the books from DC’s Sandman Universe imprint, these are what you may want to go back and pick up, or pass over.
The Dreaming #19
(w) Si Spurrier (a) Bilquis Evely (c) Mat Lopes
Si Spurrier’s 20-issue run on The Dreaming is almost at an end, and with this penultimate issue he and artist Bilquis Evely’s rebuild of the Sandman’s home realm is nearly complete. The Dreaming #20 sees the world’s inhabitants, lead by Lucien, rise up and fight back against Wan, who has sought to replace dreams with logic and thought. Spurrier’s scripts have been building to this moment, and when the final confrontation unfolds, it not only is earned but well-executed too. However, it is Evely and colorist Mat Lopes whose art vaults this issue from good to great. There are some jaw dropping imagery, from a full page splash of Dream getting a kickass back tattoo to the assemblage of the Dreaming’s forces to stop Wan. The Dreaming #19 is easily the best of the series to date.
House of Whispers #19
(w) Nalo Hopkinson with Dan Watters (a) Dominike “Domo” Stanton
House of Whispers #19 is a microcosm of the series as a whole. Featuring several disparate plot threads of varying quality, the issue continues the series’ inconsistent streak. Readers may find themselves bouncing between being fully engaged and apathetic, depending on the page. This issue’s core thread, featuring Papa Midnite, Luna, and Aesop is an immersive journey into the realm of the dead. It’s unfortunate that the series’ main character, Erzulie, has been relegated to the issue’s “B-plot”, though her journey continues to develop at a snail’s pace. So perhaps that’s for the best. While the idea of turning the House of Whispers into a houseboat still seems confounding based on the history of DC’s other magical houses, it continues to make narrative sense. Further, it continues to allow Domo Stanton give House of Whispers a unique visual flair. As a result, House of Whispers #19 remains a beautiful book that stands apart from the rest of the Sandman Universe stable.
(w) Dan Watters (a) Max Fiumara (c) Dave McCaig
Lucifer #18 spends much of its page count fleshing out the history of the Hunted God. Dan Watters’ script does a great job adding layers to this story that answers old questions while digging up new ones. Lucifer himself is shown to be merciless as he wears down the Hunted God out of existence over the course of millennia. So why is it he’s now protecting them? The reason for the hunt itself is given, and while somewhat predictable it’s provides motivation for Lucifer to muck things up. Watters doesn’t just focus on this plot point, but instead ties in other parts of the series’ larger tapestry that legitimately raises the stakes. Watters gives Lucifer harsh consequences for his actions, something that hasn’t really been seen since the days of Mike Carey. Add to that the beautiful work from Max Fiumara and Dave McCaig, and Lucifer #18 continues this series strong, steady run.
Books of Magic #18
(w) Kat Howard (a) Tom Fowler, Craig Taillefer (c) Brian Reber
Books of Magic continues to be the most overlooked of the Sandman Universe titles. Kat Howard’s iteration may never live up to the legendary status of the original Neil Gaiman miniseries, but she and artist Tom Fowler have made this series their own. With Issue #18, the creative team forces Tim Hunter to face his own mortality as he battles his evil mirror reflection. But while the stakes appear high, nothing of consequence truly happens. Even as the conflict draws to a conclusion, it is not Tim who ultimately defeats the bad guy and saves the day, but his guardians. The series’ first 18 issues really taken their time to not rush Tim’s development, but he needs to show a little bit of independence at some point. Books of Magic continues to be an enjoyable and breezy read, but its decompressed storytelling is becoming a noticeable hindrance.
John Constantine: Hellblazer #5
(w) Si Spurrier (a) Matias Bergara (c) Jordie Bellaire
I leave this book as my last book, because it’s nice to get through a stack of comics and end on a high note. Hellblazer being great has become a sure-thing, with each issue managing to surprise either through the story, the art, or combination. This second part of “Scrubbing Up” sees a craggy and hungover Constantine having to deal with the zen antics (and smoothies) of Tommy Willowtree and then hunt down the source of the shit demon that plagued him throughout the previous issue. The issues also addresses plot threads that go back to the series’ debut. Spurrier’s script does a great job in balancing levity and gravity. While Hellblazer traditionally was never a “light” book, there has always been a dry wit to Constantine. While writers in recent years have made him sound like an MCU character, Spurrier manages to find Constantine’s voice; making him hardened with just a hint of wryness. But when things get dark, they get dark. On the surface, Matias Bergara’s stylized art would not appear to lend itself to the dark and macabre of Hellblazer. However, combined with Jordie Bellaire’s colors Bergara is able to produce some truly striking and disturbing imagery. In the end, it’s hard to find a fault in Hellblazer #5.