“Writers are liars, my dear. Surely you have realized that by now?”–Prince Erasmus
Dream Country is the first volume in Sandman not connected to the main arc, and collects issues #17-20. Each chapter is its own separate story. This also marks the debut of Kelley Jones, one of my favorite comic book artists, as penciller on the comic. He is most well-known for his work on Batman in the 90’s beginning with #515, and the Elseworlds Batman trilogy Red Rain, in which Batman fights Dracula himself. In the script for the first story (which is included with the current version of the trade) Gaiman tells Jones that the reason each story is separate is that after doing two arcs, he felt he needed a break.
“Calliope” concerns the titular Mse. She is the youngest of the nine Muses, the daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne, the personification of memory itself. Each muse resides over a specific art:
- Calliope–Epic Poetry
- Erato–Lyric Poetry
Calliope has been held against her will by a man named Erasmus. He sells her to a struggling author named Richard Madoc. Despite her status as a minor goddess, Calliope no longer has the power to free herself because her religion is not as prevalent as it once was. In desperation, she calls out to Dream, who was her ex-lover. She fears Dream will not hear her, but to her surprise, he does in fact help her. To make Richard release her, he plagues him with so many ideas that he on the brink of insanity. This story also mentions Calliope’s son, Orpheus, who plays a key role later in the series.
“A Dream of a Thousand Cats” is about cats attempting to free themselves from the tyranny of humanity. Although I did like Jones’s artwork on the story, I felt it was the weakest of the quartet. Dream only makes a small appearance in the story.
“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is inspired by and even features William Shakespeare himself. Many readers consider it the best story of the entire series and it won the World Fantasy Award. In this story, the titular play is one of two commissioned by Dream as entertainment (the second, “The Tempest”, is the subject of the comic’s final issue.) The play’s characters even appear in the story as part of the audience.
The final story, “Façade”, is my favorite in the quartet. It concerns Urania Blackwell, who was once Chemical Doll. Urania was once the female counterpart to DC’s Metamorpho. Like her partner, she has the ability to control all the elements on the Periodic Table. But this power has become a curse, as she is no longer able to maintain the elements within her body. She is distraught to the point of suicide. This is when Death stops by. (“The door was open. I heard you crying.” she tells her as she enters her bedroom) I love what she tells her: “When the first living thing existed, I was there, waiting. When the last living thing dies, my job will be finished. I’ll put the chairs on the tables, turn out the lights, and lock the universe behind me when I leave.” She is very kind to Urania, and even calls her by her nickname. She tells her how she can finally find peace. It’s one of Death’s best moments in the series.
Next month, we return to the main arc of Sandman, with volume 4, Season of Mists.