Writer G. Willow Wilson and artist Nick Robles, along with colorist Mat Lopes and letterer Simon Bowland, bring us the second chapter of their wildly ambitious Sandman Universe tale in “The Dreaming: The Waking Hours” #2. This issue takes more time to introduce the backstory of our new nightmare, Ruin, while still introducing fascinating new characters – as well as reacquainting readers with old ones. With a fun and mysterious script, incredible artwork, and some pleasant treats for classic Sandman fans, “The Waking Hours” impresses yet again.
“New mother Lindy is trapped in the Dreaming, and the lovestruck nightmare Ruin is loose in the real world. Dream must put this situation right—but to do so, he’ll have to travel into the Black Chest where he keeps his most dangerous nightmares…and pull the answers right from the mouth of the unimaginable Endless Teeth!”
Writing & Plot
The focused mixture of naturalistic dialogue writing and mysterious literary intrigue crafted by a line of Sandman and The Dreaming writers holds strong with G. Willow Wilson’s script on “The Waking Hours” #2. This issue serves as a bridge between the opening chapter‘s setup and where these characters’ goals and conflicts are headed. While this kind of chapter could easily end up just placidly treading water, Wilson instead continues to cleverly shape her characters and add welcome new elements to the plot that all feel earned. Where Lindy was the main focus in the first issue, here we get more of Ruin’s backstory as a lovestruck experiment of Dream’s creation. From here we’re also introduced to an interesting new friend whose family tree is sure to make classic Sandman fans smile with intrigue. The presentation of where the story needs to head is always fleshed out by intelligent and emotional character writing, and its just the stylistic touch I was hoping for when Wilson jumped on this book. The focus of The Dreaming has always been separate from Sandman in the fact that this series is really about the beings living in the Dreaming, and how humans interact with it. Dream’s inclusion in the story is more a reaction to what is happening in his domain. This fact makes his scenes have that much more gravity, especially since he is trying to contain whatever situation Ruin has created. Wilson chooses a more simplistic and natural approach to writing that focuses less on narrative than Spurrier’s or even Gaiman’s work did, but this doesn’t harm the integrity of the Sandman Universe’s style. This is just as intricate and smart as any Sandman story thus far, and is proving to be a riveting addition to the lore of this universe.
The long legacy of unique visual work in the Sandman Universe is being continued in “The Waking Hours” by the gorgeous work of Nick Robles’s pencils and Mat Lopes’s colors. As I said in the review for the prior issue, Robles’s work bears a striking similarity to Bilquis Evely’s art in the previous Dreaming comic. However, this again is no complaint. Robles once again proves to be a tour-de-force of visual talent, as his details in character design, setpiece design, and panel direction are all incredible to perceive. Robles’s characters are flush with vivid life and unique design. I mean, how can a person draw Shakespeare over a dozen times and every one of them look both similar yet totally different? There’s an incredible amount of care that goes into Robles’s character detail, and much of this is due to how he frames and focuses on characters from a direction standpoint. Robles constantly pans and refixes his focuses on the cast to catch their every moment of reaction and emotion. His panel layouts are certainly more standard than Evely’s, but this is largely due to his, and the comic’s as a whole, focus on character over the larger plot. Adding dimension and complexity to Robles’s pencils is the colorwork of Mat Lopes, who also colored Evely’s pencils on the prior Dreaming series. I spent pretty much every review of that comic praising Lopes’s work, and I’m here to do the same. The insane versatility and variety in the color palette here is mind-blowing, offering every bit of dimension, beauty, wonder, and horror that Robles’s pencils and this comic as a whole demands. Finally, Simon Bowland returns to offer his dynamic lettering to another Sandman series. Bowland’s multi-dimensional letters offer texture and character to the motley cast of nightmares, angels, and graduate students that populate this fantasy. Every bit of the visual direction in this comic is absolutely superb.
“The Dreaming: The Waking Hours” #2 is a fun second chapter that digs into Ruin’s backstory, sets up the trajectory of the overall story, and offers a pleasant surprise or two for long time Sandman fans. G. Willow Wilson’s script is sharp, emotionally driven and full of engaging characters and their interactions. The art of Nick Robles and Mat Lopes is a vibrant mix of unique character design, scenes of fantasy and horror, and a vast array of panel direction and color. If you were impressed with the first issue, whether a fan of Sandman or not, be sure to pick up this second issue when it releases on 9/1!