Aug 11, 2009

[Comics] The Sandman Vol. 5 - A Game of You

The Sandman Vol. 5 - A Game of YouAs one approaches the relative "halfway" mark in terms of The Sandman comics, you start to feel a certain degree of comfort that by now you should be getting used to Neil Gaiman's style in terms of how he crafts his stories and sets direction for the series. Then he just comes along and turns everything on its head, thus reminding you that perhaps you don't understand things as well as you did.

Most other writers would settle on a certain set of characters and just build stories around them. To some degree, Neil Gaiman did that too during the run of The Sandman, but he went beyond that. He created a seemingly endless cast of characters that he continually added to over the years and if almost at random he'd pick up the stories from past issues and turn them into full-blown story arcs. It's the kind of writing that could drive you insane since the moment you encounter someone from the comic's past, you end up needing to dig up the past volumes, reviewing who the person was in order to better appreciate what Neil had in store this time around.

The Sandman: A Game of You is the fifth compilation of The Sandman series, collecting issues 32-37. At the center of the story is Barbie, who used to be just another person in the apartment building that Rose Walker stayed in during the events of The Doll's House. It seems that despite her current inability to dream, her dream world is now coming after her in order to gain her assistance. A giant doglike creature called Martin Tenbones manages to escape from The Dreaming in order to give Barbie an amulet known as the Porpentine. This enables her to dream and return to her fairy land which is under threat from a being known as The Cuckoo. Meanwhile, the various residents of her apartment complex end up trying to deal with her effects of her dream world in the waking world.

This started out as a somewhat confusing story, as is the general sense of disorientation one gets when starting a new story arc in a series as diverse as The Sandman. Once you figure out why Barbie seems so familiar given her appearance musch earlier in the series, it then becomes a little easier to catch up, but not by much. This is The Dreaming after all and almost anything can happen. The whole mix of the fantasy world and reality was pretty interesting and certainly gave it a sort of twisted Alice in Wonderland feel given the threat of potential death in both The Dreaming and the waking world.

Of all the characters, I naturally enjoyed Thessaly the most. She's the kind of strong, kick-ass female character that readers are inevitably drawn to and she really lives up to her role. Heck, she certainly crosses the line in terms of what is usually deemed "acceptable" and yet you can't help appreciate her fire and the way she chooses to deal with the world.

It's interesting how Neil Gaiman presents dreams in this story. The notion that there is this magical realm known as The Dreaming that is sort of the central stage for all dreams to happen is hard to reconcile with the notion that we all make our own dreams out of the things stored in our heads. This story manages to touch on that and it gives you a lot to think about in terms of just how things might work out.

Plus there was the bonus of a bonafide transsexual character who isn't just there for shock value or comic relief. Wanda / Alvin Mann is an interesting enough character in the story and one who serves an important function in terms of everything else. I just had to cite that little piece of pink trivia for everyone, hehe.

The Sandman: A Game of You gets 4 bleeding faces out of a possible 5.

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