The Dreaming #1
Writer: Simon Spurrier
Artist: Bilquis Evely
Neil Gaiman first enchanted readers with the world of Sandman thirty years ago, and the magic he wove into the left-of-center DC/Vertigo comic book is just as potent today. While Gaiman is still intimately involved in the universe he created, he has passed the writer’s torch to four others as the Sandman Universe has expanded to four new books. The flagship or lynchpin of the whole enterprise is undoubtedly Dreaming, which focuses on Daniel, Lord of Dreams. Readers caught a glimpse of Daniel in Dark Nights: Metal, but the character’s brief panels were largely lost amongst the kitchen sink assault of DC’s crossover kerfuffle. While the larger universe of DC is still quaking in the aftermath of Metal, there are a few things literally amiss in the Dreaming itself.
Daniel, as established in the prelude The Sandman Universe, is MIA and does not want to be found. “Emptiness has replaced certainty,” intones Lucien, librarian of the Dreaming. Simon Spurrier has taken a world already known for curveballs and deliberately thrown any semblance of order out the window. While the situation is dire, the denizens of the Dreaming bring lightness and no small amount of humor to the story, and it’s a credit to both Gaiman and Spurrier that the characters remain so compelling. Bilquis Evely brings a Sylvain accent to his highly-detailed illustrations, and the lush panels are jaw-dropping. The Dreaming, in many ways, has become an intersection of the old and the new. With anthropomorphized tabula rasas declaring sanctuary, the new and the old are on a collision course in an already fractured world.
The Walking Dead #183
Writer: Robert Kirkman
Artist: Charlie Adlard
Rick Grimes and company have come a long, long way from the desperate times of the opening salvos of Robert Kirkman’s landmark The Walking Dead. The world the survivors of the apocalypse have managed to craft is increasingly cozy, with travel between multiple peaceful settlements commonplace. The original drama of the series is still there, bubbling beneath the surface, but the body count has slowed substantially as a new world order begins to form. With the dust largely settled, it was only a matter of time for some new slurry to hit the fan. The issue’s title, “And Michonne Without Her Sword” is the perfect expression of how far the characters have let down their guard, and the storm on the horizon.
Zombie stories often explore the theme of economic inequality, and the human cost of might makes right. Kirkman’s story has been dropping hints of the seething unrest beneath the veneer of civility in the Commonwealth. The arc feels both timely and timeless, and many Charlie Adlard’s illustrations look like the front pages of newspapers the world over. Kirkman has inserted Michonne directly into a discussion of exactly how high a human cost society comes with, especially one that clings to the active disenfranchisement of people. Michonne (without her sword) is forced to defend her new way of life by defending a gang of murderous police enforcers. The event is the match that lights the fire Kirkman has been building for the last few issues, just in time for Rick Grimes and Governor Milton to arrive back from their diplomatic mission of goodwill to a world in flames.
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Ed McGuinness
With the band back together and the Earth saved, largely thanks to Cosmic Ghost Rider, it feels good to have the Avengers back on the beat with the big three of Iron Man, Thor, and Cap on the roster. After two Civil Wars, disappearances, deaths, comas, a Nazi Captain America and a lot of tangled plotlines, a balance has been restored to the force that is the Avengers. One of the most intriguing elements of the new Avengers squad is the Stone Age origin. While it serves to set up the clash with the Celestials and Loki’s machinations, it also creates some truly unique possibilities for some of Marvel’s longest-running characters, establishing a line of tradition that’s rooted in the darkest depths of pre-history. while it’s fairly common for comic books to explore future analogs of famous characters, the other side of year zero isn’t often explored.
Jason Aaron’s paean to the first Ghost Rider expands the ancient Marvel universe in what looks to be an ongoing theme with the new volume of Avengers. Exploring the origins of the first Ghost Rider, Black Panther, Sorcerer Supreme, Iron Fist and Phoenix Force host is fertile ground for totally new stories. Seeing characters like Mephisto rear their head for the first time has the potential to dust off some very old players and concepts. Ed McGuinness’s panels are economical in what they reveal, keeping the tension high and well-paced for what easily could have been a soggy origin yarn. While next issue’s promise of the contemporary Avengers’ new HQ is exciting, the thought of exploring the first heroes and villains of Earth feels somehow fresher.