The Sandman: The Doll’s House
Author: Neil Gaiman
Publisher: DC Comics
Publication Date: 1989-1990
Titles: The Sandman #9-16
This is the place where I started to realized that The Sandman was not going to be your typical comic series. While the first trade had a cohesive storyline in play, from here the stories are a bit more disjointed. They are all pieces of the same puzzle, the overarching connection being Morpheus. But the linear timeline has been abandoned for the most part.
The Doll’s House collects issues #9-16. There is a summary at the beginning which I highly recommend reading, even if you’ve just read the previous issues. Not only is it well written, and unique in its framing, but it helps to pull together some details of the story which the reader may have missed. For example (I don’t think I’m really spoiling anything here) there is a minor character mentioned in issue #1, that we see again later as an old woman. On my reading of Preludes and Nocturnes, I didn’t make the connection between the women, but did upon reading the introduction.
That seems to be a running theme through the series. Small details come back to play larger roles in later issues. We first see Nada, the main character in #9 “Tales in the Sand”, as a brief cameo in #4 “A Hope in Hell”. I really like this sort of detail–it shows a lot of planning on the part of the writer, and it makes rereading the stories more interesting.
This trade has a very dark undertone. I wouldn’t recommend it to those who are easily triggered by gore or talk of rape. That is a good rule of thumb for the entire series, actually. As I said in the last review, it is not for the faint of heart.
We see more trappings of the dream world in this collection, and see that the minions of Morpheus have their own powers. The consequences of his incarceration are still being felt now that he’s free. There are a few twist endings to the stories, and overall, it was very satisfying. I rate it just a little lower than Preludes and Nocturnes, mostly because I felt some of the gore was overkill (no pun intended). A serial killer convention is interesting to think about, but unless the Criminal Minds team is crashing the party, it’s not really my thing. I never really understood why the Corinthian was so violent. The reasoning for him being the way he was just seemed a bit weak, or maybe it just wasn’t explored as much as it should have been.
I think taken apart from the other issues, the stuff with the Corinthian would have played more powerfully. But by the time I got to it in the trade, I was already numbed by the proceeding horrors. I’m sure it made more sense in the original publication, where the issues would have been spread out. Still, it’s interesting stuff.
This is a powerful collection, and I do not recommend it lightly. It is definitely not for everyone. Tread lightly, dear readers. These dreams might just devour you whole.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Trigger warnings: Mentions of rape, gruesome images, violence, body horror