Reading “Into the Night”

Following up a story like “Collectors” is a pretty tough row to hoe, and in many ways “Into the Night” isn’t really trying to do anything earth shattering with its storytelling.  We’re moving into the culmination of The Doll’s House, and along with that we’re finally reaching an issue that focuses more squarely on Rose Walker.

This story acts as a denouement to “Collectors,” as Rose returns to the boarding house and tries to unwind after worrying over Jed, who’s been hospitalized due to his recent experiences with his foster parents and the Corinthian.  Hal, Rose’s landlord, suggests she try to get some sleep, and Rose eventually does, but finds that she’s able to see into the dreams of everyone inside the house.  When she starts breaking down the barriers between dreams so that everyone can see everyone else, Dream finally steps in and prepares to do what he’s been meaning to do since the story’s beginning: kill Rose in order to eliminate the Dream Vortex.

All the really good pictures of Rose in this issue involve her being naked, so here’s the original cover instead. (Image credit: Comic Vine)

That’s the basic plot stuff, but what’s really interesting about this issue is in the way all the different inhabitants of the house are portrayed through their dreamscapes.  Hal, who performs as a drag queen, imagines himself seeking out advice from his Hollywood idols and reminiscing about an old boyfriend before the relationship turned sour; Zelda, the quiet woman who collects spiders with her partner Chantal (this issue finally clarifies Chantal and Zelda’s relationship, which had been ambiguous up to this point), imagines herself as a little girl who’s terrified of Chantal turning out to be her mother, who disapproved of Zelda’s love of the macabre (and probably her sexuality as well); Chantal imagines herself as a woman who’s so sophisticated that she carries on an affair with a sentence, but can’t for the life of her figure out what the sentence says in the first place; Ken, of the sickeningly plastic couple Ken-and-Barbie, dreams about little more than making money and acquiring power; Barbie unveils some deeper dissatisfaction with her life through an elaborate dream story that’s filled with all kinds of nonsense that evoke an epic fantasy (while each dream is a succinct window into these characters that we’ve really spent very little time with in the story, Barbie’s is the most interesting as an introduction to a longer story that we’ll read many issues from now).  Everyone’s dreams reveal that there are more layers than what they publicly present, and the way Rose casually impinges on those private boundaries serves to help illustrate why on the human level the existence of a Dream Vortex is a problem.

Dream spends a lot of time discussing his responsibilities as the anthropomorphic personification of a universal concept, but he doesn’t often delve into why has has to do what he does.  It’s typically put up as just the thing he’s supposed to do because it’s his nature, so this issue does offer some nice insight into the potential cost of Dream neglecting his duties.  While we won’t see most of these characters again for a very long time (with the exception of Barbie, who will star in her own story down the road, most folks will only reappear briefly during The Kindly Ones, which in real time is about five years away), we do get a sense that Rose’s breach of the Dreaming does have some serious consequences.  Ken and Barbie’s internal lives are so drastically different that it’s little wonder their marriage will fall apart once they realize just how superficial their relationship is, and the exposure of Chantal’s self obsession alongside Zelda’s chronic insecurities shakes their relationship deeply.  Dreams represent a very fragile aspect of human identity, and the uncovering of them haphazardly can have serious consequences beyond Dream’s simple concern that the fabric of reality will unravel.

It becomes a little tiresome to continuously say that the art is outstanding, but as long as it’s true, I guess I’ll keep up with it.  There are a variety of artists who come and go on Sandman‘s run, but Dringenberg and Jones are probably my definitive team for what I imagine an issue of the book to look like.  Dreamscapes are always a fertile ground for interesting visuals, and here we get to see a variety of styles employed to make sure that each character’s distinct personality is communicated without too much description from Gaiman (many people I’ve talked to say that they love Neil Gaiman’s writing, but they often like Sandman best, probably because Gaiman always has an artist to help keep him from getting overly wordy in the course of trying to convey his meaning).

The next issue finally sees the conclusion of Doll’s House, where we get to see if Dream will actually have to kill Rose Walker.

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