July 6, 2020

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Review of Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman The Doll's House 30th anniversary cover

Review of Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman: The Doll’s House

Review of Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman The Doll's House 30th anniversary cover

Last month I wrote a review of the first volume of The Sandman comic written by Neil Gaiman. That volume covers the first 8 issues of the comic series which started in 1989. Volume 2 The Sandman: The Doll’s House covers issues 9 to 16, which I will be covering here. Volume 2 covers the issues published between September 1989 and June 1990. The art style similar to volume 1, but a slight change of the guard when it comes to artists and pencillers means this volume retains its own unique style.

Synopsis of The Sandman: The Doll’s House

Volume 2 starts with a prologue called Tales in the Sands. In this issue we see an elderly man of an unknown tribe tell the tale of how Dream fell in love with a Queen called Nada. She rejects him out of duty to her people, but Dream banishes her to hell and her civilization falls. In issue 10 – The Doll’s House – we are introduced to Dream’s sibling Desire and Despair. They know a dream vortex is about to arrive and they intend to make use of the situation.

We are also introduced to Miranda Walker and her daughter Rose. They are invited to the United Kingdom to meet with Unity Kinkaid, the now elderly woman who was for most of her life trapped in her own dreams. She explains she is Miranda’s mother after becoming pregnant whilst in her coma. Meanwhile Dream receives a census of his realm and find several of his inhabitants are gone.

In issue 11 – Moving In – we see Rose settling in Florida to find her brother Jed, a boy who has gone missing since Rose’s parents divorced. Rose lives in a home run by the crossdresser Hal with other tenants such as Barbie and Ken and the two elderly ladies. There is also tenant called Gilbert whom Rose initially does not see. Morpheus is also interested in Jed and wonders why he has never been able to visit the boy’s dreams. Meanwhile one of Dream’s missing inhabitants, The Corinthian, starts a serial killing spree. Rose eventually gets a lead on where her extended family lives and sets out to retrieve Jed.

Review of Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman The Doll's House Desire

Cereal convention

In issue 12 – Playing House – Rose is accompanied by the mysterious Gilbert on her journey to meet Jed. We see Jed being abused by his now foster parents as they are only interested in the 800 dollars per month they get from the government for his upkeep. Meanwhile Dream deals with two of his former minions who have cornered off Jed’s dream world for themselves. The destruction of their fake Sandman causes the death of the foster parents. Jed escapes but unfortunately accepts a lift from The Corinthian.

Issue 13 – Men of Good Fortune – is detour issue. We see Dream giving immortality to a human of the 13th century named Hob Gadling. Every 100 years they meet at the same tavern. Hob prospers, ad sometimes flounders in despair with every meeting. Hob admits he does not understand why a person should even die, but also admits he no longer changes as a person. The exact reason for this experiment of Dream remains unresolved in this issue.

In issue 14 – Collectors – we see the hotel were Rose and Gilbert are staying for a night change into a weird convention for serial killers. It transpires that The Corinthian is the guest of honor. The issue ends with a showdown between Dream and The Corinthian, ending with the latter’s demise. In issue 15 – Into The Night – Gilbert manages to save Jed from the trunk of the car The Corinthian was using. Rose’s is revealed to be the dream vortex and it is up to Dream to destroy her.

Resolution to The Sandman The Doll’s House

In the final issue – Lost Hearts – Gilbert makes a plea to Dream to not destroy her. Gilbert is revealed to be Fiddler’s Green, the last missing inhabitant of Dream’s realm. The death of Unity Kinkaid means she can act as a stand-in for Rose as she was the original vortex. The story ends with a depressed Rose living in a vast new country house with her mother and brother. After detailing her adventure in a diary she resolves to discover the world. Dream meanwhile confronts his sister Desire. He accuses her of tampering with the vortex for her own end. He demands to know who it was who impregnated Unity when she was in a her coma / dream sleep. After not receiving an answer he gives her the ultimate warning.

Review of Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman The Doll's House Jed meets Corinthian

Conclusion

Sadly, I did not think this volume was anywhere near as good as the first. There are several reasons for that, the story of Unity Kinkaid and her granddaughter Rose Walker pretty much take up the entire volume to set up. There is payoff, the resolution is rewarding but the lead up falters too often even if does have its moments. Side plots such as the bizarre serial killer convention is typical of Neil Gaiman and astounds with its dark humor. Yet, these side plots are also difficult to place in the big picture.

Another reason this volume is less satisfactory is the long absences of Dream, or Morpheus if you like. It is not until the end that his presence propels the story forward. Unlike the first volume which was pretty much Dream’s journey from escaping confinement to retrieving his three totems. Secondary characters such as The Corinthian remain shrouded in too much mystery and as such do not have a satisfactory part in the story. Overall Volume 2 The Doll’s House decent, but hopefully not indicative of the remainder of The Sandman series.