Reading “The Kindly Ones: 6”

Where issue #61 felt like a lot of setup across too many plot lines, issue #62 is entirely about Rose Walker’s trip to England.  It overall feels much more like an interlude than anything, although Rose’s story will eventually intersect with Lyta and Dream’s threads again, especially since we don’t even see mention of any of the other players in the story, and this issue is illustrated by someone other than Marc Hempel.

The shift in art feels pretty significant, since the content of this chapter is so far removed from all the revenge plotting of the first half of the story.  There are certainly some thematic ties (Rose encounters a version of the Fates in the form of some old ladies telling stories in the convalescent home where Unity Kincaid slept her life away, and a full third of the issue is devoted to a folk tale about taking vengeance on a man who broke his promises to his family), but this issue’s more about exploring where Rose is since we last saw her in The Doll’s House.

We learn here that Rose has been trying to write a book about Unity’s life (oh, the things that affluent white people can write about) since she’s comfortably living off the inheritance she and her mother received.  There’s a cryptic remark from Rose about her age (it’s been noted previously that she looks younger than her given age of twenty-five, and here she says that she’s as young as she was) that points towards the possibility that something strange has happened to her since Dream took her heart and gave it to Unity way back in the climax of Doll’s House.  All around, she seems very disaffected with her life.

The arc of this issue reflects pretty closely with Rose’s introduction back in her first story.  She flies to England, wakes up from a nap during the trip, visits her grandmother’s room and wanders into the broom closet down the hall, and has an encounter with the Fates (or at least a version of them).  The fact that she’s also apparently not aged in the intervening years drives home how this is a repetition of her previous experience.

Left to right, Paul McGuire, Rose Walker, Alex Burgess. (Crediting artwork on this issue is difficult because there were two pencilers and two inkers, and most resources don’t say who did which pages; I think this panel was drawn and inked by Dean Ormston, but I don’t know for sure. Colors by Daniel Vozzo)

The three old women here are interesting, because they certainly embody aspects of the Fates, but they also display characteristics of the Furies as well.  One old woman, Amelia, spends a large bit of time thinking over her wartime boyfriend, the child they had that she had to give up for adoption, and how she wishes he had stayed to marry her; another, Magda, spends all her time recollecting stories that her mother told her when she was a child (she’s also the one to tell the story of the flying children in this issue); Helena, who may be Lyta Hall’s biological mother (there are clues that this might be the case, but it’s all heavily reliant on having a larger knowledge of Lyta’s history outside The Sandman), is focused entirely on vengeance, emphasizing that the man in the story fully deserves his punishment.  The fun of this whole encounter is that it falls firmly in the category that Rose has previously defined as “weird shit.”  The old women can simultaneously be manifestations of the Fates/Furies and just be three old ladies who are passing an afternoon in their retirement home, because the rules of reality are flexible in this story (it’s the same way Lyta can be going on a real spirit journey to find the Furies while also stumbling around Los Angeles looking like a homeless woman suffering from severe hallucinations).

The last callback we get in this issue that’s been all about calling back to the series’s beginning is Paul McGuire and Alex Burgess.  Paul owns the home where Unity Kincaid resided, and his lover Alex is now housed there since he fell into a coma five years previous (at the end of The Sandman #1).  Once again, the mortals in The Sandman seem to cross paths a lot more than you would expect.  Bringing back Alex Burgess here is a good reminder of where Dream began the series.  The Sandman began as a horror title, and its inaugural story was one of harsh, probably unfair, punishment at the hands of Dream.  Alex was complicit in maintaining Dream’s captivity, and when Dream finally escaped he committed Alex to eternal waking, going from one nightmare to the next.  It’s easy to forget about this start, especially since Dream has gone through so many iterations of practicing and asking for forgiveness.  Still, we have a reminder here that for all of Dream’s progress, he’s still not changed as much as we’d like to think.

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