I have consistently loved Simon Spurrier’s run on The Dreaming. Of all the Sandman Universe titles, it’s the one that feels the most similar in tone to Neil Gaiman’s original Sandman run. Much like Gaiman, Spurrier has been using his run on the title to muse on the very nature of storytelling. His run has been as much about the art of storytelling as it has been about the Dreaming, and its inhabitants. It’s routinely been one of my favorite titles to return to and when I heard that this volume would be the final one in his run, I was a mixture of sad and excited. It would be sad to see him go, but I was excited to see how he’d wrap up this story he’s been telling since the very first issue. And here we are, at the end. And how is that ending? Well, it’s everything I could’ve hoped for. Spurrier has taken all the threads he’d left dangling and woven them into a wholly satisfying conclusion, ending this story while leaving the door wide open for future creative teams to tell new stories. It’s simply superb. (Mild spoilers follow.)
The Dreaming, Vol. 3: One Magic Moment (written by Simon Spurrier, illustrated by Bilquis Evely (issues 15, 17, 19-20), Marguerite Sauvage (Issues 16, 18) Dani Strips (Issue 13), and Matias Bergara (Issue 14))
As the second year of the Sandman Universe begins, the sentient algorithm known as Wan is now the acknowledged lord of Dream’s realm, and unquestioned ruler of all his subjects. It’s a huge problem that Wan is completely insane, and more than capable of wiping out all life in the Dreaming. What can Abel, the only one who knows Wan’s secret, do about it? And what must he do to poor Matthew the Raven to put his plan into action? Collects The Dreaming #13-20.
The Dreaming: One Magical Movement is a strong read from beginning to end. The previous volume left off on a pretty stunning cliffhanger, so I was very eager to see where Spurrier would take the story. And, in some ways, it’s exactly where I thought he’d take it. Obviously, he needed to explain who’s taken over the Dreaming and why they’ve done it – which he does. And, obviously, there’s going to be some climactic battle where the various inhabitants of the realm will team together in order to save it from these malicious forces – which there is. The larger bullet points are ones that could be predicted, but the finer details are where the magic is in this story. Spurrier has a gift for spinning tales. He’s been showing it off since the first issue of The Dreaming and he really flexes that muscle here. The Dreaming: One Magical Movement is meticulously constructed. Every piece has a purpose and it all builds up into something that’s wholly satisfying and feels both final and open-ended. Without spoiling too much, the novel’s final issue really delivers on the unspoken promise of even bothering to put out new Sandman Universe titles – getting to see the Lord of Dreams, himself, in action. And it’s a delight, as is the entirety of this volume.
Throughout his entire run on The Dreaming, he’s been very obviously influenced by Gaiman’s Sandman run, liberally borrowing elements from that run to reuse here. Now, to be clear, I would never accuse Spurrier of relying too heavily on nostalgia – I mean, he did literally exile Dream from the Dreaming. But he’s definitely taking familiar elements and remixing them, and that continues throughout much of this volume. Here, we see the return of a dream vortex, we see flashes of the other Endless, we see flashbacks to Morpheus’ imprisonment from the first volume of The Sandman and how that event is still influencing the Sandman Universe, and all of those elements end up being of vital importance to the arc’s conclusion. There are numerous elements that Spurrier revisits here, but it all feels purposeful. Much of Spurrier’s thesis for this project seems to be that stories are cyclical. They begin, they end, and they begin again. It’s an idea Gaiman played with towards the end of his Sandman run and it’s something Spurrier takes even further here. At times, the story feels as much a metatextual commentary on the very nature of comics as it is a story about these specific characters in this specific situation. But that’s not a bad thing! It’s actually my favorite aspect of Spurrier’s entire run on the title.
The Dreaming: Ome Magical Movement is not without its flaws, though. It doesn’t have the world’s best opening. I don’t mean to say that it’s a bad opening because it’s not. In fact, you begin to understand why Spurrier chose to open the arc with that issue fairly quickly. But it does initially strike as an odd beginning, especially after the previous volume left off the way it did. And, on the topic of that first issue, I would’ve liked to circle back around to some of the events introduced within it, but that’s really not that big of a deal – especially when so many of the ideas in that seeminly-standalone issue ended up being of vital importance to the overarching plot. On the one hand, it’s nice that Spurrier didn’t touch back on some of those ideas, because it allows future writers the chance to play with those ideas; but on the other hand, it does make a lot of that issue feel a bit disposable. But, this is The Sandman Universe and that kind of plotting is par for the course. Even with these nitpicks, The Dreaming: One Magical Movement is an excellent conclusion to Spurrier’s tale.
While previous volumes have been almost entirely illustrated by Bilquis Evely, this volume features a mixture of artists. Evely tackles half of the volume’s issues – 15, 16, 19, and 20) – and brings her usual talent of imagining the unimaginable to the table. Seriously, I think this might be some of Evely’s best work on the title. Many of her issues take us deep inside the Dreaming and she brings it to life with a careful blend of abstract artwork that’s somehow still understandable on a narrative level. And, man, her design for the ultimate antagonist of the story is something truly captivating. What’s interesting about the other half of the issues is that they’re split between three other artists: Marguerite Sauvage (Issues 16, 18) Dani Strips (Issue 13), and Matias Bergara (Issue 14). Each of these artists brings their own sensibilities to the title, adhering both to their own style and to the title’s style that’s been established by Evely. It’s a really hard line to walk and I’m impressed by how cohesive the artwork feels in this novel, even as it was drawn by four separate artists. All of the artwork is beautiful and it adds another layer on top of Spurrier’s script. In all honesty, the artwork is what really brings this story together.
All in all, I adored The Dreaming, Vol. 3 – One Magical Movement. It’s a perfect conclusion to all that Spurrier had set up in the previous volumes. It pays homage to much of what Gaiman did in the original Sandman series while continuing to push the story into new and exciting directions. Throughout this volume, Spurrier takes elements from the original Sandman and remixes them into something new, ultimately creating an interesting commentary on the cyclical nature of storytelling. I’ve adored the entirety of Spurrier’s run on The Dreaming and, while I’m sad to see it come to a close, I’m thoroughly pleased with the way he’s ended the story. Everything about this just worked for me and I can’t say enough good things about it. If you haven’t read these twenty issues, what’s stopping you? This should prove immensely satisfying for fans of Gaiman’s original Sandman run as well as those who’ve been following Spurrier’s run of The Dreaming. It’s excellent.
5 out of 5 wands.