Writer G. Willow Wilson and guest artist Javier Rodriguez’s bring us the start of the next arc of their staggeringly good Sandman Universe series with “The Dreaming: The Waking Hours” #6. This issue takes young witch Heather After, one of the best supporting cast members of the first five issues, and thrusts them in the main protagonist position to deal with the consequences of one of her more reckless actions in a prior issue. With colors from Mat Lopes and letters from Simon Bowland, this is yet another gorgeous and sharply written chapter in the legacy of Sandman comics.
“As life gets back to something almost like normal for Lindy, sorceress Heather After finds herself plunged into a waking nightmare of her own! The cruel creature known as Puck is stalking her, and no being she could possibly summon can protect her from his wrath! Unless… no, she couldn’t possibly try to summon…really?!”
Writing & Plot
Unlike prior issues, “The Dreaming: The Waking Hours” #6 has Wilson following the plot of only one character’s actions. As much as I loved Lindy and Ruin and the rest in the first five issues, I was most intrigued by Heather After, young sorceress and descendant of Sandman villain Roderick Burgess. This issues focuses in on her life with her himbo boyfriend and dealing with the consequences of one of her more hasty actions earlier in the series – involving one of Faerie’s more unpredictable residents. She naturally plans to resolve this issue by – in true Vertigo form – making more consequences. The tightly focused and immensely entertaining script is shaped by Wilson’s ear for naturalistic dialogue and her poetic narrative voice. This single issue feels the most like Sandman or early Vertigo-era of any of her issues thus far, while still maintaining a completely unique narrative voice. Heather is a brilliantly capable and wickedly smart character, who is also just arrogant enough to land herself in a heap of trouble – while being humble enough to ask for help. She’s completely contemporary and feels like a real person, making her one of the most easily relatable protagonists I’ve read in a comic in recent memory. The reintroduction and use of longtime Sandman and DC/Vertigo staples and the careful handling of their characterization makes this issue an absolute winner in all regards from a writing perspective.
“The Waking Hours” #5 sees guest artist Javier Rodriguez filling in for series regular Nick Robles on pencils. This is no small task, as Robles’s work on this series has been nothing short of staggering on each issue. Fortunately, Rodriguez absolutely murders it on this chapter, with not only fantastic detail and animation but wildly dynamic and intricate panel direction. Stylistically, it’s impressive how artists working on The Dreaming in the past couple of years have managed to have a sort of all-around stylistic similarity while still retaining their own style. Rodriguez’s fine penciling is alive with character, with every individual looking just as unique as Robles had designed them. There’s a liveliness in Rodriguez’s work here that’s a bit different than prior work on this series, and that’s largely afforded by the kinds of scenes in this chapter. This issue has Heather and her boyfriend in their apartment and going to nightclubs rather than mysterious eldritch veils, so the setting feels more relatable while still offering the strange mysticism needed in a Sandman Universe comic. Now the leading component for why Rodriguez’s work here is such a seamless addition to “The Waking Hours” visuals thus far is honestly the coloring of Mat Lopes. His work on this issue, as well as every issue of The Dreaming over the past couple of years, is marked by a saturated hues of both natural colors and sudden explosions of bright neons and fantastical shades. This issue is brightly lit with the comfortable colors of Heather’s apartment that switches over to the strobing lights of a nightclub (a cathartic sight here during a pandemic) and then to the otherworldly tones given off by eldritch entities and spells. The lettering by Simon Bowland is once again a use of the classic Sandman fonts, with different characters using their own fonts. This is especially cool when a character speaks from off-panel and we we have to guess who the new speaker is. This is once again, a brilliant work of visual storytelling that this series is now known for.
“The Dreaming: The Waking Hours” #6 is a phenomenal start to a new arc for this Sandman Universe series. G. Willow Wilson takes a fascinating supporting character and creates a thrilling chapter that is a tumultuous joy to read. The artwork of Javier Rodriguez and Mat Lopes is absolutely stunning, taking real-world settings and mashing them together with otherworldly visons in true Sandman fashion. Be sure to grab this issue from your local comic shop when it releases on January 5th!