Friday, July 26, 2013

Book Review: The Sandman Vol.3, Dream Country

THE SANDMAN VOL. 3, DREAM COUNTRY: Episodic chapters -- for better or worse

Dream Country features four independent episodes of The Sandman; the story of Calliope, a woman used by a novelist as a muse; the story of a cat that has a front row seat on humanity’s tyranny; a performance of William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream; and the story of a Metamorph who wants nothing but death.

The fact that this volume is episodic, that it does not feature a singular storyline, is both good and problematic. What makes it good is that it expands the Sandman universe; it gives the readers fresh plot points that widen the scope of the overall story. It is always fun to see different perspectives from different creatures. It becomes even more fun when the readers see how these creatures are affected by the Sandman mythos. What makes it problematic is that the franchise has already established a plotline from the first two volumes, so it should have continued the trend. Sure, these predecessors don’t logically present a chunk of a singular story; they are more of stand-alone storylines -- like story arcs. Still this is the reason why I think this third volume fails to give me a significant impact; it simply lacks the interweaving characteristic of its forerunners.

            This, however, does not make the volume bad. In truth, the individual chapters are remarkable in their own right. Calliope is an interesting portrayal of humanity’s enslavement in its own dreams. It shows the readers that making dreams as their masters can also have negative consequences. Aside from that, this story has opened up intriguing storylines that could be further expanded in different volumes. Calliope’s character is effective on pulling this off. A Dream of a Thousand Cats, on the other hand, has a moral that somehow contradicts that of Calliope’s. The story portrays the positive consequences of dreams -- no matter how insignificant they may be. This contradiction shows us the two sides of the dreaming coin. This truth makes these stories worthy to be under The Sandman’s banner.

            A Midsummer Night’s Dream records a fictional performance of William Shakespeare’s work with the same name. The mere fact that this piece won an award is enough proof that it is worth a read. The last story, Facade, is also not something to be ignored. It ponders ideas regarding death and certain psychological dilemmas. It has also introduced the readers to a different storyline that involves the Metamorphae -- and this, again, is a good expansion to the Sandman’s story. But the best expansion this episode has done is regarding Death, Dream’s older sister. It is always a joy when a story features a recurring character; it gives room for the readers to explore her person further.

The writing lives up to The Sandman’s name. The prose is lyrical and very artistic in the ears. However, there are some parts where this poetic style isn’t exploited, to match the atmosphere of some scenarios. The alternative voice used is still somewhat lyrical, and its difference with the usual voice is almost non-existent that readers who don’t give particular attention to the writing will surely miss it. This means that the prose remain consistent all throughout the volume.

            As what I have said in my reviews of the previous volumes, I really couldn’t criticize the technicalities of the art style, for it is beyond my field. The only thing I can say is that I like the art of this volume more compared to the second volume, simply because the colours are more vibrant and the lines are not overdone.

The Sandman Vol. 3, Dream Country, has continued the trend of above average quality in The Sandman series. However, this is the least impressive out of the first three. This is only a personal matter, for I think I would have enjoyed the volume more if it featured a singular storyline. Without personal preferences, and looking at the work only with its technicalities, this volume is still an awesome read. Awesome? Of course! After all, this is The Sandman we’re talking about. Every volume is impressive in its own ways.

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