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.