Classic Comic Book Canon. The Sandman, issues 25-28

Welcome to a series that I am continuing. I am going to go through Neil Gaiman’s now-classic series The Sandman

 

Issue # 25

Title: Season of Mists: Chapter Four

Artist: Matt Wagner & P. Craig Russell

Collected in: Season of Mists

Plot: Thirteen-year-old Charles Rowland has been forced to stay at St. Hilarion’s School for Boys over the holidays because his father has been taken prisoner in Kuwait by the Iraqi army. Though he is the only one in the dormitory, Charles senses the ghosts of all of the boys who once lived there.

He finds the headmaster and his mother. The old woman reveals that she is dead, and has recently come from Hell. Finding her candour disturbing Charles leaves and checks in with Ms. Gribble at the Sanatorium. The woman is taking care of a pair of babies. The babies, though, are dead. one, a girl, and the other a boy who never made it to term.

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That night, as Charles tries to sleep, he is awakened by three bullies; Cheeseman, Skinner, and Barrow. After revealing that they have tortured and killed other children in the past, they light one of the gas stoves and press Charles’ back against it while piercing his flesh with a fork. Fortunately, Edwin Paine appears and drags Charles off to the attic. Edwin tells the story of how he himself was murdered by the three bullies – in that very attic.

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Finally, on the next day, Charles Rowland dies. Death appears and beckons him away, though she is in a hurry due to recent events. However, Charles refuses to leave without Edwin, who is already long dead. Frustrated, Death allows him to stay, but promises to return for him one day.

First appearance: Charles Rowland and Edwin Paine who spin off in their own series 1

Historical references Charles father was involved in the First Gulf War.

My take It has its charms but I feel it takes away from the main story, and I just want them to get back to Dream’s castle.

 

Issue # 26

Title: Season of Mists: Chapter Five

Artist: Kelley Jones & George Pratt

Collected in: Season of Mists

Plot: The faerie emissaries Cluracan and his sister Nuala arrive late to the gathering. Dream greets them amiably, and invites them to join the other visitors in the banquet hall. Cluracan admits that he has a private message from his masters, and Dream hears him out. The faeries have been required to sacrifice nine of their wisest and most beautiful to Hell every seven years by ancient pact. He pleads that it is in the faeries’ interests that Hell remain empty. The faeries have sent Nuala as a gift to Dream, in order to help convince him.

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Each of the ambassadirs request an audience with Dream. Nearby, Choronzon and the Spider-Queen Merkin share a strange flirtation. Chronozon wonders what the other gift that Azazel intends to promise Dream might be. Merkin promises to tell him later. Later, Choronzon and Merkin get closer, and begin kissing and peeling off each other’s clothing. As Choronzon raises Merkin’s dress, a number of spiders come from beneath it, and begin crawling up and down Choronzon’s back. Choronzon has become encased in a thick web. Teasingly, Merkin announces that Choronzon himself is the other gift that Azazel plans to offer Dream.

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Each of the emissaries offer Dream something for hell:

  • Some years ago, Odin created a notional dimension in which he fashioned a tiny Ragnarok. He indicates that his notional dimension has entrapped Wesley Dodds, a man who shares part of Dream’s essence, and he offers the man in return for the key to Hell.
  • Shivering Jemmy of the Lords of Chaos. She threatens that unless he gives them Hell, the entire host of Chaos will be at his throat until the end of time.
  • Kilderkin of Order offers the dream essences of the newly dead, having been collected by the Lords of Order for some time, all in exchange for Hell.
  • Susano-o-no-Mikoto states the gods of Japan are expanding, and they feel that Hell should belong to them. He offers that whatever price that Dream asks, he and the Japanese gods will pay it.
  • Bast offers information ofthe location of Dream’s missing brother Destruction.
  • Azazel offers the captured Choronzon and Nada. He warns that if Dream does not accept the offer, he will devour her soul.

With many things to think about, Dream contemplates simply throwing the key away. He attempts it, but it somehow lands just at his feet. He has a decision to make.

First appearance: Cluracan and Nuala

Keep an eye on: Nuala will be a major supporting player and will have a role to play in the Kindly Ones.

My take It’s fascinating to see the different characters interact. Gaiman seems to portray each one as close to their traditional forms as possible.

 

Issue # 27

Title: Season of Mists: Chapter Six

Artist: Kelley Jones & Dick Giordano

Collected in: Season of Mists

Plot: The faeries gather in a great hall along with all of the other delegates, waiting for Dream’s announcement. Dream, meanwhile, remains in his quarters. He is interrupted by the appearance of the angels Remiel and Duma. They bear a message from the Creator: there must be Hell. The Creator decides that Hell’s custody should be remanded to Remiel and Dumas themselves, to do with as the Creator determines. Reluctantly, the angels accept their creator’s decision, and Dream gladly gives over the key to their keeping.

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Dream arrives at the hall to make his announcement. The angels appear, and they announce that Hell will again be the abode of the Demons and the damned, who will return and be punished. Azazel warns that this decision means that he will not return Nada to Dream, and he will devour her soul happily. In response, Dream reveals that he offered hospitality to all of his visitors, including those who are prisoners of his visitors, such as Nada. Dream then enters Azazel’s mind in search of both Choronzon and Nada. Dream finds Choronzon first, and not long after, he finds Nada. He offers them both freedom, and they escape from Azazel’s clutches. Dream traps the demon in a bottle, and drops him in a chest.

Afterwards, Dream says goodbye to each of the delegates.  He asks Matthew to invite Nada to have dinner with him.

Keep an eye on: Notice the items in the chest. The Corinthian’s skull, the bottled city of Bahgdad, and Prez’s watch.

My take Is there anything more badass than watching Dream just plunge into Azazel’s form to kick his ass?

 

Issue # 28

Title: Season of Mists: Epilogue

Artist: Mike Dringenberg & George Pratt

Collected in: Season of Mists

Plot: Dream finally meets with Nada, Awkwardly, he offers an apology for his hastiness, but his confession of guilt is halfhearted. Nada sees through his flimsy apology and condemns his attempt, slapping him across the face. Angrily he begins to threaten her until he realizes that nothing he could do to her now is worse than what he already has done to her. Finally, he relents, and offers a sincere apology. After a pause, Nada accepts. Ultimately, they will have to decide what to do with Nada, if she will not stay with Dream.

Later, Dream catches Susano-o-no-Mikoto attempting to leave the Ghost Castle without saying goodbye. Dream correctly guesses that this is not Susano-o-no-Mikoto at all, but Loki, who has switched places with the Japanese god in order to escape eternal torture beneath the surface of the earth. Meanwhile, the real deity will be subjected to that punishment. He proposes a deal in which he creates a dream image of Loki, allowing both gods to go free and have no one be any the wiser.

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Cluracan explains that Nuala was meant as a gift from the faerie queen whether he accepted their deal or not. Dream is no happier with the arrangement than the distressed Nuala is, but he begrudgingly accepts, but before he allows her to stay, he demands that she dispel her glamour.

Nada is reborn in Hong Kong as an infant. Dream visits her in the hospital, and promises that he will never forget her. On a beach in Perth, Australia, a man approaches Lucifer. Lucifer is enjoying the sunset from a deck chair, and the man joins him, admiring the beauty of that sunset. After the man leaves, Lucifer cannot help but admit to the Creator that the sunsets are beautiful.

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In Hell, Remiel stops a demon from torturing one of the damned, warning that Hell is no longer a place of mindless torture and violence, but a place of redemptive punishment. While the demon shall proceed in his torture, the purpose will be different. This hell will be one of redemption and correction. He ignores the victim’s cry that the change just makes the torture all the worse. Elsewhere, Destiny closes the chapter of his book, seeing the fate of Hell dealt with, and Dream’s role in that complete

Keep an eye on: This will not be the last time we see Loki. He makes a deal with Dream, and one has to wonder if Dream used Loki as his agent in The Kindy Ones

My take I find it interesting that the story begins and ends with Destiny, as there is a constant theme of choice and predestination. Lucifer wonders if he really had a choice or if his rebellion was predestined. Destiny invites his siblings… just because. Ultimately Lucifer makes a choice, as does Dream in returning to Hell. Interesting that Dream’s major choice is taken out of his hands, and Remiel and Dumas are not given a choice at all. In that case, neither is Nuala.