Writer Si Spurrier marches ever closer to the end of his stellar run on The Dreaming, and issue #16 brings forth answers to some of the most troubling mysteries the story has had to offer so far. Fantastic dialogue and sharp as always plotting are only slightly marred by this issue’s exposition-laden delivery and the disappointing break from Bilquis Evely’s incredible artwork.
Dora is finally put face to face with the person who tried to unmake her, only he isn’t quite what she was expecting. As it turns out, this man is more connected to her and the Dreaming itself then anyone could have guessed, and his plans for the realm have fallen out of his control and into absolute chaos!
Si Spurrier has done a stellar job at replicating the menagerie of writing styles needed for a proper Sandman story in his 16-issue tenure on The Dreaming thus far. This issue actually trades a bit of that variety for a more journalistic approach to unveiling the story’s major mysteries. The twists this issue put forth are fantastically brilliant, and take the story and concept of Sandman to places even Neil Gaiman himself would have a tough time imagining. The mysticism mixed with science this issue uses is rarely seen or done so well, and it puts the larger pieces of this puzzling story together in a way that is duly shocking and engrossing. A minor gripe could be made due to the exposition-laden approach at telling this specific point of the story, but at the same time it’s difficult to imagine any other way to approach such revelations. The way this issue fits in with the larger story brings serious anticipation not just to the rest of his work on The Dreaming, but on the future of his work for the Sandman Universe as a whole.
In keeping with Sandman tradition, The Dreaming plays host to a multitude of artistic talents. Unfortunately, the lead talent behind the series’ visuals is the incomparable Bilquis Evely, whose art is next to impossible to try and follow up. This becomes a bit of an issue in this chapter. This is not to put down Marguerite Sauvage’s efforts in this issue at all; she still provides work that’s emotionally engaging and detailed enough to stand well enough on its own. It’s just that Evely’s art is so identifiable and detailed that it stands on its own in a completely different caliber, so her absence is felt. Still, the art provided by Sauvage does well for this issue. The fantastic visuals of the realm of the Dreaming are largely absent here, instead mostly taking place in a sterile hospital room. Thus, most of the art is focused on character and facial detail. The work in this regard is still superb. Everything from Dora’s raging internal struggle to her would-be destroyer’s cascading emotional journey are created in strong believable penciling. Enviornmental detail is not much of a worry here due to this issue’s subject matter, but it’s solid when it does arise. The color palette is a notably off choice, however. The panels all appear to be sort of washed out, with only a sort of semblance of its hue really reaching the page. This very well could be a choice based upon what is actually happening in this issue’s story, but it is something to make note of. In the end this is still a very well-drawn issue, even if it does lack Evely’s impeccable hand.
Simon Bowland’s lettering pulls a bit of a neat trick as well. His normal comic font is tilted with emotion and attitude in its usual entertaining way. However, it also uses another much more plain font for the dialogue of Dora’s un-maker. Staying away from spoilers, it’s a simple but still useful touch to separate the dialogue of character who are from characters who were.
The Dreaming #16 is a damn engrossing issue that delivers brilliantly clever twists and takes the story of Sandman into uncharted territory. The utility of the human imagination, for all its flaws and wonders, is explored in a manner that is both chilling and strangely uplifting as this series continues. Despite the “not quite as superb” artwork this issue displays as well as some comparatively safe writing compared to other Dreaming or Sandman issues, #16 is possibly the most important chapter to this series’ plot in the entirety of Si Spurrier’s run. With only three issues left of his run before G. Willow Wilson makes her series debut, be sure to pick this one up at your local comic shop before this saga ends.