THE DREAMING #1 by Simon Spurrier and Bilquis Evely
THE DREAMING #1 is a nearly perfect start to a new series in the SANDMAN universe. The way Simon Spurrier tells this tale is an absolute treat from the first page, and Bilquis Evely's pencils create a wondrous and beautiful world of fantasy.
98 %
Absolutely Wonderful
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Neil Gaiman redefined comics with his iconic SANDMAN series. As such, many fans were worried about the rebirth of his legacy in THE SANDMAN UNIVERSE released last month. This fear stems from many sources, topmost being the fact that Gaiman himself won’t head the series’ four branching titles. In THE DREAMING #1, the first new title for the SANDMAN brand, Simon Spurrier and Bilquis Evely have the monumental task of recapturing the wonder and narrative power of Gaiman’s SANDMAN. The question, of course, is whether or not they succeeded. As a longtime SANDMAN reader, though, I can easily say that they did.

Where to Begin?

THE DREAMING #1 page 1. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

THE DREAMING #1 follows the many faces, new and old, of Dream of the Endless’ realm. Lucien, Merv, Cain, Abel, and Matthew have a lot on their plates. A crack has opened in the sky, and faceless humanoid creatures are falling into their home. With Daniel — Dream’s newest incarnation — missing, they can find no answers as their problems continue to increase. One of those difficulties, a young and strange dream named Dora, has started stealing from the various mental landscapes of dreamers. With a deep hatred for Daniel and his kingdom, Dora has begun working with the demon Balam. So when Dora leaves a portal to the Dreaming wide open, Balam sees an opportunity to take the realm for himself.

Into Dream World

THE DREAMING #1 page 2. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

THE DREAMING #1 is a roaring success. From page one, I thoroughly enjoyed my journey into this world. This is especially impressive considering how much could have gone wrong with this story. Simon Spurrier packs a ton into this issue. Not only do we have a look at Lucien and Matthew’s new responsibilities in leading the dreams. Not only do we follow Dora on her thieving and rebellious adventures. We do so without the grounding force of Daniel or the Endless. The original series was built on the foundation of the Endless and their godly relationships. However, Spurrier somehow makes this work from the start.

So one of the strongest elements of THE DREAMING #1 is the way all of the plot threads tie together. We don’t just randomly fall into Dora’s story. Spurrier leads us there using the continual thread of the “Blanks,” the faceless and mindless invaders. He uses that narrative point to move the story toward Dora’s side of the Dreaming, and he continues finding new ways to tie the plot together. This creates an incredibly cohesive narrative. Also, it constantly helps to keep the pacing well-balanced. Every story beat, every moment, feels well-thought-out. It doesn’t have any moments of hesitation or confusion. Spurrier’s dialogue and storytelling are completely confident from page one. Considering this is a story based in a realm made of dreams, that’s no small accomplishment.

The RUNAWAYS: From Panel to Screen

Dora’s Explorations

The biggest highlight of THE DREAMING #1, though, is the characterization. Only one named character — the powerful Eve of the Cave — feels a bit underutilized, but in a cast of dozens, that is a feat in itself. Even with Eve’s succinct role, her personality as protector of the Dreaming comes through wonderfully as she stares down the towering Balam. Nevertheless, across the board, Spurrier brings readers an intensely character-driven story. He even utilizes one of Gaiman’s tricks from the original SANDMAN run. Lucien narrates the majority of the story, adding his own thoughts and personality into the tale. This allows Spurrier to do two things efficiently. First, he lets the most knowledgeable character give the reader information. More importantly, though, this allows Lucien to add his perspective on other characters.

If not for this secondary perspective, I don’t think THE DREAMING #1’s characterization would work nearly as well. So far, we know very little about Dora and her problems with Daniel. In fact, we know almost nothing other than that the people of the Dreaming know little about her too. In a way, though, that really works. While some of this story comes from Dora’s perspective, most of it comes from Lucien’s observations. We get to see this enigma through the eyes of a long-time resident. Spurrier truly accentuates Lucien’s confusion and fears surrounding this young dream. Especially at issue’s end, when Dora lives up to these dark expectations, we simply want to know more. This isn’t a failure in sharing information with the reader. It’s a success at building a mystery.

Bilquis Evely: The Visuals of Dreams

THE DREAMING #1 page 3. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

Even with Spurrier’s fantastic writing, THE DREAMING #1 wouldn’t be the book it is without Bilquis Evely’s art. Her pencils are some of the best in the medium. Everything about her vision of the Dreaming is somehow wondrous. Also, even its darker elements, like Dora’s bare home, feel fantastical. As such, when we see this wonderful fantasy broken by a monstrous gash in the sky, we truly understand the magnitude of the situation. Evely’s pencils perfectly capture the atmosphere of the Dreaming in this story. More importantly, she has a fantastic eye for character design. I loved the visuals for the demon Balam and his monster bear, as well as Ziggy, Dora’s Blank, who needs to become a recurring figure. Only Evely could give a faceless character that much heart.

KINGDOM COME: The Death of Sandman

THE DREAMING #1: Final Thoughts

THE DREAMING #1, with its incredible story and art, is a must-read for fans of SANDMAN, fans of fantasy, or just fans of good storytelling. Also, as the first branching path for the new SANDMAN UNIVERSE, this issue adds a lot of new characters and ideas into the mix without muddying the waters. It captures that same feeling of wonder and awe that I first had when reading the original series for the first time. THE DREAMING #1 is simply a damn good narrative, and you will be doing yourself a favor by picking this one up as soon as possible.

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