Reading “The Kindly Ones: 3”

One would expect with a kidnapping plot for the reveal of who did the kidnapping not to come so quickly, but Gaiman’s playing a longer game here, and Daniel’s abduction isn’t really the main point of the story.  Yes, it serves as a catalyst for Hippolyta Hall to act, but this isn’t a story in the vein of Taken where the retired badass goes a quest to save their child and is ultimately successful.  This issue ends with Lyta being shown a photograph of a badly burned toddler’s body, whom the detectives from last issue, Pinkerton and Fellowes, say has been identified as Daniel.  We do see Daniel being placed on a fire by the actual kidnappers Loki and Puck at the beginning of this issue, but there’s strong indication that some kind of magic is at play (Daniel looks distressed to be put in the fire, but he doesn’t appear to be in pain; he’s holding a phoenix feather; Loki and Puck, while certainly murderous, are primarily tricksters).  All that matters for the moment is that when this issue finishes Lyta believes Daniel has been murdered, and the only suspect that comes to her mind is Dream, who has honestly never done anything to assuage Lyta’s fears about him.

Aw, Hob. (Artwork by Marc Hempel)

We’ll come back to Lyta (we’ll come back to Lyta a lot, in fact); besides her further descent into disconnected madness, this issue also spends some time with everyone’s favorite guy who just won’t die, Hob Gadling.  In the present, Hob is grieving over the recent death of his latest lover, Audrey (the observation about Hob’s serial monogamy might be uncouth if you overlook the fact that he’s been alive over six hundred years, and he tends to only move on after his previous lover has died).  In the grand scheme of the plot of The Kindly Ones, Hob’s appearance here is minor.  He’s bereaved, and Dream just happens to stop by to visit him, and nothing of any great significance to Lyta’s story even comes up here.  If you subdivide the space devoted to each thread in the issue, Lyta gets a full half the book (if you include the scene where we see Loki and Puck preparing to burn Daniel alive) while Hob’s appearance only takes up a third (and this is Hob’s only appearance in this story arc, compared with Lyta appearing in almost every issue of The Kindly Ones).  The significance of this scene is the way it directly echoes the last time we saw Hob in the present; Dream was preparing to confront Lucifer in Hell about releasing Nada from her imprisonment, and he didn’t expect to return.  That time, Dream shared a drink with Hob despite the fact that he was about ninety-nine years early for their regular appointment because he wanted to spend some time with someone that he considered a friend.  There’s nothing so momentous on the horizon for Dream here (we as the reader know that Lyta’s building momentum towards some kind of revenge plot, but that’s a very different thing from Dream knowing that he’s about to do something potentially suicidal), but that doesn’t stop Hob from getting a bad feeling about his friend.  As Dream rushes to leave, Hob warns him that he has the smell of death about him, and he should be careful.

Lyta’s not doing so great. (Artwork by Marc Hempel)

I think this is the first place in The Kindly Ones where we get the sense that Dream knows his death is impending.  You have small hints of it in issue 57 when Dream’s remaking the Corinthian and talking about the distance between conception and execution (I think the subtext there is about Dream’s relationship with Orpheus in specific and his entire history of relationships in general), but this scene with Hob is a callback to the last time Dream thought he was going to die.  I think there’s a case to be made that Dream’s actually engineering his own death, but it’s long and complicated, and best left to be explored after we’re done with The Kindly Ones.  For now, let’s just call this the requisite foreshadowing, and move along.

Context: Lyta just broke a guy’s arm after he hit on her. While she’s distressed over the abduction of her son. Anyway, tell me this panel doesn’t look like something Sienkewicz might have drawn. (Artwork by Marc Hempel)

Coming back to Lyta now, her section of the issue is interesting for its stylistic construction.  Aside from the introductory page, which offers a close up on Lyta’s forehead while she shuffles through a few environments, the entire section is drawn from her perspective.  Lyta’s mental breakdown is progressing in a similar vein to how it appeared in the last issue, but here we get to look directly inside her mind, and we see just how disconnected Lyta even feels from herself.  She feels more like an impartial observer than an active agent in her own story at this point, and it’s going to come back in a big way much later (this first person perspective also offers the first opportunity to see how Lyta’s gradual slide into delirium affects her perception of things and people around her; one particularly striking panel shows how she see Carla when they have an argument, which looks to me so much like a Bill Sienkewicz creature).

Between all of Hob’s grief and Lyta’s descent into madness, we get a brief interlude where four of the Endless siblings, Destiny, Desire, Despair, and Delirium, begin to do some things, and it all seems very odd and kind of pointless at the moment, but it also seems very portentous.  Big things are happening.

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