The second Sandman collection, comprising of issues #9-16, was the one that convinced me that this is indeed a comic to follow.
The book consists of a seven issue story called the Doll’s House (with a unrelated tidbit in the middle) and an independent tale of African origin.
The african folk tale begins the show, partly tying up an earlier loose end, and showing that Morpheus can be a mean man when pressed. As already seen in the very first issue – but that was pretty much justifiable vengeance. The story is original to Gaiman (as far as I know, and the annotators agree), but has an authentic feel to it.
The main event of the book is the story of the Doll’s House. At six issues it manages to go deep, much deeper than the individual tales in the first collection.
It returns to many strands pulled free in the first issues, and adds a lot more to a very complex knot. A knot that is unravelled at the end, with again many more strings to follow up in later issues. Tributes are again given to older comics, in some cases even the format of the story changes (to match Winsor McCay’s Little Nemo in Slumberland).
The single most stand-out aspect of the storyline is the “cereal convention”, a gathering of serial killers. An occasion whose participants end up changed men after a few select encounters. An occasion that still, on re-reading the story, just oozes potential. And characters that probably could give Thomas Harris’ Hannibal Lecter an even match.
The amount of coincidences in the story is a bit high, but that’s easily explained by the vortex that is screwing up cause and effect to everyone. Explained by the reader, the story itself resorts to no such easy way out.
The unrelated issue in the middle of the Doll’s House concerns a man who chooses immortality over an easy way out off the mortal coil. A man who gets to experience the seven centuries, all the way to the present day. The tale itself is not very interesting, though has an unexpected human element within. Nope, the main issue are the changing times seen through the man, and in the centennial meeting location – and especially the other visitors therein: Kit Marlowe and William Shakespeare amongst many.
Two siblings of Dream and Death put in appearances – Desire in an active role, Despair as a mere observer. As does the Corinthian, a stray nightmare in human guise – with both an attitude and an appetite. Delirium and “the Lost One” are referred to, as are grave sequences of kinslaying amongst the Endless. And we get to meet another constantine, Johanna, an ancestor of Hellblazer – the cold, occult ways obviously run in the family.