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Book Review: The Dreaming: Beyond the Shores of Night by Terry LaBan, Peter Hogan, Alisa Kwitney

January 2, 2020

This review was originally posted on Goodreads on December 28, 2011, and got another like today.

The Dreaming: Beyond the Shores of NightThe Dreaming: Beyond the Shores of Night by Terry LaBan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

For whatever reason, while The Sandman (1989-1996) has stayed perpetually in print, this sequel series has not, and most of it remains uncollected. This volume contains the first eight issues, and the second contains issues 15-19 and 22-25. The remaining 44 issues and one special can be obtained only in single issue format, although they are generally not very expensive. This volume contains three stories, “The Goldie Factor” (3 issues) by Terry LaBan, “The Lost Boy” (4 issues) by Peter Hogan, and “His Brother’s Keeper (1 issue), by Alisa Kwitney.

The first story reminds me a lot of Bill Willingham’s Fables, only a bit deeper and less flippant (I enjoy Fables, but find it often predictable and insubstantial, with The Good Prince being the first volume to reach any level of profundity). While conceptually, The Dreaming is created by Neil Gaiman, its characters are much older. Cain and Gregory debuted in House of Mystery #175 (July/August 1968), Abel debuted in DC Special #4 (July-September 1969), Destiny in Weird Mystery Tales #1 (July/August 1972), Eve in Secrets of Sinister House #6 (August-September 1972), Lucien in Weird Mystery Tales #18 (May 1975), and Mad Hettie in Hellblazer #9 (September 1988). Lady Johanna Constantine, in spite of her apparent relationship to John Constantine, had appeared only in The Sandman up to this point. While the differences between the older representation of Eve as a hag witch were somewhat explained in the early issues of The Sandman by Dream’s absence, I don’t know if The Dreaming ever addressed the apparent murder of Lucien in Secrets of Haunted House #44, since I have yet to read beyond the contents of this volume.

One point that both the older DC “mystery” books and The Sandman would dance around was the relationship of Cain, Abel, and Eve to their Biblical counterpoints, Destiny at one point expressly denying it in a letter column (which were hosted by the characters in those days). Both “The Goldie Factor” and “His Brother’s Keeper” are very explicit that they are the same characters. The serpent of Eden is a limbless man called Tempto, who lures a dissatisfied Goldie (born in The Sandman #2) to undo the the Fall. Over the course of the story, Cain finds a statue of himself that proves that he is the biblical Cain, something that he was not sure of himself. The story explains Goldie’s origin and the function of the golden gargoyles. It never really seems to reach Gaiman’s level, but remains, for me, a notch or two above Willingham.

The next story, “The Lost One” is longer and a bit more trenchant. Cain and Abel’s roles are much smaller, and the story is focused on architect Brian Salmon, who has been displaced from the 1950s by an encounter with beautiful (and nude) Faire Folk and Mad Hettie, and the investigation of his case by Professor Muriel Jenkins, who became friends with Mad Hettie through her as a study subject, although her notes always disappear. Its connection to the history of the United States in a subplot featuring Destiny and Mad Hettie is deliberately ambiguous. I loved the moment when Mad Hettie paid for a plane ticket from London to Washington with leaves using a potato as a passport. The mystery around Mad Hettie is, to Hogan’s credit, never really cleared up, in spite of learning more about her powers and responsibilities. While the ending of the story is romantic and predictable, the way the story was written would not allow it to be thwarted and would have made for an unsatisfactory ending if it had been.

In spite of having taken up only one issue, Alisa Kwitney’s “His Brother’s Keeper” packs the most wallop. I wasn’t a bit surprised yesterday when I found issue #8 absent from a dollar bin full of issues of the series. This issue introduces Seth to the DC mythos, and is beautifully illustrated by Michael Zulli. (Peter Snejberg’s art in “The Goldie Factor” is reminiscent of Mark Buckingham’s in Fables and Steve Parkhouse’s work in “The Lost Boy” is close to Vertigo “house style,” if such a thing exists.) This story not only introduces a new family conflict in the dysfunctional relationship between Cain, Abel, and Eve with which DC has dealt since 1972 (up to this point, Adam has appeared only in flashback and in an alternate reality briefly created in “The Goldie Factor”), but explains the real reason why Abel murdered Cain. Without letting in any spoilers, it deals with women that are not mentioned in the Bible because the Bible writers saw women as less than people, often mentioning “sisters” and “daughters,” but leaving their names unrecorded. Kwitney’s story feels like one of DC’s old “mystery” comics done profoundly well and with the frame story thoroughly integrated into what the storytellers are telling. The best comparisons to this issue are Swamp Thing #33 by Alan Moore and The Sandman #40 by Neil Gaiman, to which this stands in triumvirate.

Had the entire volume been as good as “His Brother’s Keeper”, I would have given it the full five stars, but being only 1/8 of this book’s content, it doesn’t pull it up from the overall 4 I would otherwise give it. Extremely worthwhile reading for fans of The Sandman or DC’s “mystery” comics of the 1960s and 1970s. While I doubt that most readers would approach this expecting to find it par or better than Gaiman, as I did not, they may find this return excursion to the Dreaming most worthwhile, and with an immensely satisfying conclusion.

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