Small thought here as I am listening to the recent podcast on "THE SOUND OF WINGS." The Sandman story in general is about an unchanging character (Dream....literally "endless") who finds that he needs to change. Death being the ultimate change (even signifying change in the tarot from what I understand), I interpret this issue as laying the foundation for Dreams ongoing struggle with change. In this issue dream learns the basic lesson that death is part of what gives life meaning I think (though I know that's a super oversimple message perhaps). Without giving spoilers, I think that this issue specifically plants the seeds for the subtle mechanations that Dream goes through for the rest of the series. I think this is the issue where dream (perhaps subconsciously) realizes what he wants or needs to do across the broad arc of the entire series.
Really enjoying re-reading this alongside you guys. Thanks so much for doing this! Maybe one day you'll go through Alan Moore's SWAMP THING issue by issue?