THIS REVIEW OF ‘THE DREAMING’ #3 CONTAINS MINOR SPOILERS.
by Mickey Rivera. As comebacks go The Dreaming has been relatively low-key (barring the occasional violently lucid dreamer or demonic orgasm). Thus far it’s delivered fantastic art from Bilquis Evely and Mat Lopes, and many a clever line from writer Simon Spurrier. But this opening storyarc has been searching for a villain since the beginning, having spent the past two issues stewing in its own confusion at the great rift splitting the sky across The Dreaming.
The Lord of Dreams, Daniel, ruler of this kingdom of stories and myths, has gone AWOL, leaving his domain in disorder and his people without guidance or power. Daniel’s right-hand man and librarian Lucien is next in the chain of command, but can’t muster the strength to lead. The pumpkin-headed Dream Technician, Merv, begins spouting conservative talking points about the “rise of criminality” and “outsiders runnin’ about like they own the place.” He’s referring to Dora—a supremely powerful newcomer to the Dreaming who can transform her body in monstrous ways and can psychically divine any thoughts and histories as she pleases—but also to an army of blank-faced grey-skinned invaders who came in with her.
The Dreaming is turning lawless, which sets the stage for this issue: The introduction of a righteous old nightmare born of the blood and destiny of the United States’ early days. His name is Judge Gallows, and he makes a disturbingly compelling argument on behalf of ruthless adherence to the rule of law.
Judge Gallows’ history is told by way of sprawling and beautiful two page spreads. Prior Dream King Morpheus created Gallows while observing the 19th century United States, a young country so convinced of its own righteousness that its populace committed mass murders in the name of its ideals. Morpheus, who at various times during his reign as King of Dreams has fluctuated between heartbroken proto-goth and malevolent researcher of the human soul, sees the blood and torment spilling across this new land and realizes these humans are not even flinching. “It is no effort at all for one human to decide his notion of right is worth more than the life of another,” he says. “Knowing this, living with this, living with each other, is the purest terror they know. And yet they barely feel it anymore.” This isn’t just a choice sample of Spurrier’s writing chops. It’s also evidence that he is writing Morpheus from a place of understanding.
The Dream King created nightmares to be a dark mirror to humanity, and Judge Gallows was created to reflect the ugly aspects of the human urge to impose a personal sense of order and rightness on others. Spurrier cites several real life historical atrocities which serve as the bedrock on which Morpheus builds Gallows. The Judge is given the suit and cape of an antebellum Southern statesman and the eloquence of a legalistic ideologue. Fast forwarding to the present, in the embattled realm of The Dreaming, this hard-assed evil lawyer is summoned by Lucien out of desperation in the hopes that he can return some sense of order to the realm.
Spurrier plays this issue like a harp. Just as you would expect his character to do, Judge Gallows provides the story with a sense of direction and a distinct moral conflict that can be sculpted any which way the writer wants. Perhaps most importantly, this issue grounds the story by summoning the very real skeletons of human history out of their closets. Gallows isn’t just a fantasy villain in some distant fantasy land. He’s a manifestation of an ugly truth that still plagues human life.
Written by Simon Spurrier.
Art by Bilquis Evely.
Colors by Mat Lopes.
Letters by Simon Bowland.
9 out of 10