Another fun episode. I don't see, however, why Brent claimed it was not a Sandman story. Having Sandman stories in which another character is the protagonist is extremely common in the series. If I recall correctly, there are issues (in A Game of You , I think) where he doesn't appear at all. Sure, in this case, it's a John Constantine story too, and hence (I suppose) a Hellblazer comic. But it's a Sandman comic. I do think that Gaiman's self-assessment that he doesn't quite hit his stride until issue #8 is right, and this issue, while fine, is just fine. It's not one I'd hand to someone who's never read one and say, "read this". (Actually, I'd hand that person volume 2, The Doll's House .) A few good details you either didn't mention or didn't emphasize: - Mad Hettie's somehow knowing he's back, and Constantine's off-hand line "the funny thing is she is two-hundred and forty-seven years old". - The meta-textual call-out when Constantine remembers horror movies where people split up, and asks, "we're going to stick together, right?" - You mention his being caught by Dream, but not the fabulous streaking lines as if Dream had to rush down through the dream sky to catch him: he didn't just reach into the dream, he flew in it. - "It's never only a dream, John Constantine" — a recurring line (also: "of course it's a dream", a variant with (oddly) almost the same meaning), which occurs here, I think, for the first time in the series. - How well the artist does at removing any hint of sexuality or the male gaze from the naked Rachel - Dreams callousness: I don't think he's being robotic, as Glenn said: he's unfeeling, which is not quite the same thing. Remember he has lived for eons, and people live and die. It's just... normal for him. (Until and unless it isn't.) He never intervenes when most people suffer; and he (in a fashion) makes people suffer, with nightmares ("I am far more terrible than you, my sister" he'll say in issue #8). - But Constantine actually shouts: incredibly brave, now that he knows who Dream is, and something of his power; but Dream is, I think, in his debt, and thus does this (call it a "boon", perhaps) - And because of that dream not only gives her a dream. but covers her: part of the favor he does JC, treating her not only kindly, but with dignity - JC's reply to where Dream is going: "Aren't we all, mate?" Not realizing, I guess, that what Dream said was meant literally. - Still no Brent bio on the about page. The peasants are getting restless.
Great pick for a festive tale! I have a feeling I didn't vote for this in the poll, but I'm glad it made it through anyway. We've all been there, right: angsty teenager fed up with stupid family Christmas goes in search of something darker, ends up in way over their head, dives into a river and has to recover in hospital the next day? Ahem. On a more serious note. To me this definitely read like a "first draft" of "The Shadow over Innsmouth", but not necessarily in a bad way. A man travels to an old New England seaside town in search of something related to his family history. It turns out that his family history is even darker than he thought (though if I'm remembering "Shadow" correctly, that narrator didn't know as much about a dark secret - certainly didn't have ancestors who were hung as witches). It even turns out that his ancestors aren't even human (incidentally, the mask-like face made me think of a trope Lovecraft re-used in "The Whisperer in Darkness). Maybe I'm just being too influenced by the later story, but I do think that non-human is what Lovecraft was going for here, even if it's not as explicit as in "Shadow" and they may or may not be Deep Ones (or proto-Deep Ones). You could read the comment about them coming from the sea either way: they came out of the sea, or they came across the sea from another land. I'd even say that Lovecraft himself was intentionally vague and didn't necessarily know himself what was going on. I thought the descriptive language throughout was excellent, especially in the opening paragraph and in the cave scene (although as with many Lovecraft stories, there was a bit too much flapping and flopping for my taste...). I even enjoyed the idea of the narrator just sitting down to read the Necronomicon to fill time. The only things that really pulled me out of the story were: the weird description of the creatures the townsfolk were riding to get to the festival - I know Lovecraft was going for something Boschian here, but it was too much for me; and the ease with which the narrator acquired a copy of the Necronomicon again at the end. Again, maybe I'm being too influenced by Lovecraft's later stories, but that just didn't ring true at all. It was basically an excuse to have the narrator read that key passage. A better way to do it, in my opinion, would have been to have him remember having read that passage earlier. Oh, and this definitely happened by the way. Another way to read the epigraph and connect it to the story is that the townsfolk have put an illusion in place to make Kingsport seem like a regular town and hide what lies beneath the surface. Just because we normal people see the illusion doesn't mean its true.
I'm shocked that Glenn would pass up an enchanting experience with the Necronomicon just because the host has a minor skin blemish. If you don't blithely ignore portents of terror you aren't in a Lovecraft story. Also don't accept any party invitations from Lovecraft. I don't think that the narrator's people are supposed to be what we would consider Native Americans. They are supposed to be a much older group. That's why 3 of them were hung as witches by the Puritans. I thought the winter setting was an interesting start for a weird story and I like the tie in to older Christmas rituals. It was a clunky transition though.