The third Sandman collection, Dream Country contains the most famous story of the whole 75-issue lifetime of the comic. A Midsummer Night’s Dream won the World Fantasy Award for Best Short Fiction in 1991.
The four stories collected within (yeah, this is much thinner book than the two preceding parts) are independent, and there’s no arcing storyline to connect them in any way.
Three of the four issues are classics, and the fourth one is the oddest single issue of them all.
The first three all concern themselves with the hidden power of a story. Power that can be used for good, or misused for selfish goals.
Calliope, the first issue is definitely of the latter kind – it deals with the forcible removal of a writer’s block, by using a real muse to effect a literary comeback. Needless to say, messing with mythology meets with a sticky end. The story ideas thrown about with wild abandon pretty could form the basis of future works in many genres.
Dream of a Thousand Cats is appealing mostly to people who like cats. Neil Gaiman obviously does. Otherwise it would be hard to imagine a whole issue dedicated to the species from such a bening viewpoint. And it’s a nice diversion, pointing out that dreams are not confined to humans (as anybody who has watched a sleeping pet can verify).
The third issue is the much-raved-about A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It’s a tale that mixes Shakespeare (with whom Morpheus made a deal back in issue #13) and the Faerie folk. Within the eponymous play as a backdrop for the story. This is one of the most heavily annotated issues.
This was the first issue drawn by Charles Vess, whose style, once witnessed, is hard to mix up with others. Very well-suited to a fairy tale, he returned for several issues later in the saga, as well as collaborated with Gaiman on Stardust, a short story that should be real in the fully-illustrated form.
The fourth story, Façade has no Dream in it at all, it’s got big sister Death, and her only in a minor role. The protagonist is a superheroine (from an earlier era of DC comics, and badly neglected since), whose retirement has not been all that successful. It’s by no means a bad story, just seems misplaced in the context of Sandman. Death plays her part as an upbeat grim reaperess as she has in previous issues.
The stories are interludes in the overall storyline, which picks up speed in the next campaign: A Season of Mists.
Figured that a cover image and clip of the comic would be appropriate additions to the entries. And added them to the previous two