I’m not sure why it took me so long to finish Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series, after the first volume grabbed my attention and imagination so thoroughly. But slowly, as I read through more installments, I saw that the series was scattered with highs and lows. The tenth and final volume, The Wake, is a somber affair, regarding the events immediately following the “death,” of Morpheus, the Lord of Dreaming. But just like Despair before him, his death is more of a regeneration, if you will, as you cannot kill a concept or the personification of a concept. And yet, people are affected, as are their dreams, and we see characters from all of the past volumes come forth and take part in mourning the death of the Dream King.
There are three issues within the volume itself, which contain the events within the dream world, entitled: Chapter One, Which Occurs in the Wake of What Has Gone Before", "Chapter Two, In Which a Wake is Held", and "Chapter Three, In Which We Wake”. These three chapters include the wake and funeral of Morpheus, who died at the end of the previous volume, The Kindly Ones. Different characters pay their respects and reflect on the life of the Dream Lord, though the eulogies of his family of the Endless take precedence, truly capturing their character’s iconic personas. During this mourning event, we see glimpses of the new King of Dreaming, who appears to be similar, though not exactly the same as his predecessor: kind of like when The Doctor regenerates into a new actor.
After this wake and funeral, we experience an epilogue of sorts, with three different stories being told of different characters who have been influenced by the Dream Lord in one way or another. The first features the immortal, Hob Gadling, who had met with Morpheus for a drink and a chat once every 100 years. He learns from Dream’s sister, Death, that Dream has died, and is offered a break from his immortality as well. The second story deals with an advisor to the Emperor of China, who has been exiled and then becomes lost on the desert. While in the desert, he comes upon one of “soft places” that bridge between the waking and dreaming worlds. He meets Morpheus there, and converses with him, about both the past and the future events to come. Finally, we see the story of William Shakespeare writing, The Tempest, which is to be one of the two plays he writes for the Dream Lord, and also his final play, marking the ending of the words and Dreaming, but also marking some new beginnings. .
Some of the characters and stories from previous volumes I remembered, but others I didn’t, as it’s been a while since I first began and read through this series. That is no fault but my own, and maybe if I had streamlined it a bit more, I would have enjoyed The Wake more than I did, or understood the significance of certain stories and characters more. But as it is, while I loved the mood and slow progression of this volume, I was left feeling unsatisfied by the ending. Maybe the point was to leave it kind of open, to insinuate that nothing ever ends, especially not our dreams, but I don’t know if that really worked for me. The artwork of this volume was incredibly beautiful, and almost sketch-like in quality. I’m not sure if that is really my favourite style of graphic novel design, but that is more of a matter of personal taste. On it’s own, however, I can appreciate the style and detail put into it.
At the end of the day, I enjoyed the Sandman series for its imaginative and original quality, though some aspects I liked far more than others. I can see why it wouldn’t be for everyone, but for those who don’t mind things that are a little odd every now and again, I would suggest giving it at least a try (if you haven’t already).