Our assignment was to read the first two issues of Season of Mists: Prologue and Chapter One. Jaybird will be reviewing both this week.
A Doll’s House recaps here: KatherineMW took on the first two issues, then the next two issues. KatherineMW and Jason Tank then reviewed the fifth and sixth, respectively. Mike Schilling reviewed the final two issues.
Dream Country recaps here: Glyph reviewed Caliope then Jaybird and Maribou reviewed Dream of a Thousand Cats in the first review post for Dream Country. Alan Scott reviewed A Midsummer Night’s Dream then Mike Schilling reviewed Façade in the second.
It’s very difficult to discuss this book without discussing the next one (or the one ofter that, or the one after that), if you want to discuss something with a major plot point: please rot13 it. That’s a simple encryption that will allow the folks who want to avoid spoilers to avoid them and allow the people who want to argue them to argue them.
We good? We good! Everybody who has done the reading, see you after the cut!
Oh, I hope I do these stories justice. This is my favorite arc and the story that has me keep slapping my head and yelling “OF COURSE!!!” as he takes the tools he has shown us with his first 20 issues and builds something that, somehow, manages to not only be a surprise but, in retrospect, absolutely inevitable.
(This episode has the subtitle: “In which a family reunion occasions certain personal recriminations; assorted events are set in motion, and a relationship thought long done with proves to have much relevance today”.)
And, with that, we begin our tale in the Garden of Destiny.
Destiny meets with the Grey Ladies (who seem to be an amalgam of Hecate and The Moirai) who are making another of their appearances. “Why are you here?” “Because we’re here.” (Roll the bones)
Look in your book, Destiny is told. A King will forsake his kingdom. Life and Death will clash and fray. The Oldest Battle begins once more. And all these things have their Genesis in your Garden.
Destiny rejoins: nothing starts Here. The sisters, however, counter: Everything starts Someplace… and Here is as good a place as Any.
It’s all in Destiny’s book, by the way… which he goes on to read and have it explained what he is going to do before he goes on to do it.
It, in this case, is a family meeting. An Endless Family Meeting.
One by one (minus one), we meet the fam. Death, Dream, Desire, Despair, and Delerium. Some interesting pieces of information are given us:
Death has formal vestments but prefers to dress informally. Destiny asks her to wear something “more appropriate” and she puts on the full Victorian Era as imagined by a goth chick. (I admit to finding that exceptionally alluring back in the 90’s… now I find myself agreeing with Death that, hey, jeans and a tank should be good enough… I mean, jeez. Despair shows up naked. You don’t see Destiny saying “could you throw something a little more gothy on” to her. Though, I suppose, the ring is Despair’s formal attire. She could show up wearing a get-up like Death’s without the ring and I suppose that Destiny would make that request. There’s no excuse for Desire’s outfit, though.)
Dream points out that this is the first Family Meeting since “the prodigal” announced that he was leaving.
Despair misses this yet-unnamed brother. (This strikes me as notable, for some reason I can’t put my finger on.)
Desire and Despair are not only siblings but twins.
Delerium was once Delight but Something Happened.
Dream and Destiny are the two Endless who are the most conscious of their duties and the most meticulous in their execution.
And there is Death.
We find out that Destiny is about as into giving decent info as The Grey Ladies (“Why are we here?” “Because you’re here.” (roll the bones)) and find out that the purpose of the meeting is the meeting… and, like any given Endless Family Meeting that I’ve ever been to, things go downhill quickly… (Delerium, I find out, can create life) and it comes down to Desire and Dream having it out over Dream’s “love life”. Apparently, he hasn’t had a whole lot of healthy relationships and, more importantly, he’s kind of a crappy boyfriend. Nada (remember her from the intro to A Doll’s House?) got sent to Hell after she declined a relationship with the Dream King. Desire brings this up and it pisses Dream off something awful.
Dream leaves the table and we find out, both surprisingly and unsurprisingly, that Death can make Desire shut up.
Death then goes and tells Dream something that we all know: Dude. Seriously, sending the chick to Hell was a dick move.
Surprisingly and inevitably, Dream realizes that, huh, maybe he shouldn’t have done that. Surprisingly and inevitably, he says that he needs to undo it. He disappears to make ready after telling Death, hey, I need to fix this and, hey, I’ll see you again (but maybe the next time will be when you’re performing your duties).
The prologue ends with an amazing scene of Destiny and a candle framed in the same shot. “He is returning to Hell” (the candle is snuffed) “It has begun.”
(This episode has the subtitle: “In which the Lord of Dreams makes preparations to visit the Realms Infernal; Farewell’s are said; a toast is drunk; and in Hell the Adversary makes certain preparations of His own”)
We open in Hell and learn a few things. Some surprising. Some not so surprising.
Hell is unpleasant. Some (many? most?) of the people who populate Hell think they’re there against their will. If Hell wasn’t unpleasant these people would be disappointed. Hell is not just populated by people, but also by things that we’ll call “demons” but that name doesn’t encapsulate what these other entities are. “Demons” find Hell to be just as bad. As bad as it gets, actually.
Jump to the Dreaming (in such a way that I flipped back and forth to make sure that I wasn’t dealing with two pages stuck together) where we see Matthew, the Raven, and Lucien, the Librarian of the Dreaming. We establish that the Library holds a much different collection that we’d find downtown. The Library of the Dreaming has all of the books that were only written or finished in dreams (I imagine that Robert Jordan’s last six books of the 20-volume Wheel of Time are down (up?) there).
Dream makes an announcement over the Dreaming’s version of the loudspeaker to Matthew and Lucien about a meeting and Matthew expresses surprise. Lucien explains that, in the Dreaming, Dream can do whatever he wants.
At the meeting itself, we are given a tiny “Previously: On Sandman” story that catches all of us up: We revisit what happened in Book One when Dream went to hell. We revisit what happened in A Doll’s House with what happened to Nada. And we find out that Dream was ticked about how The Dreaming went to crap the last time he disappeared for a while and how, seriously, don’t let that crap happen again… but ends on a hopeful note. Perhaps this is nothing at all. Perhaps this is much ado that won’t even be a blip. Dream is just giving everybody fair warning (and, as we find out, this fair warning extends even to Hell Itself).
Matthew, playing Jimmy Olsen to Morpheus’s Superman, asks about Lucifer Morningstar and we establish that Lucifer is, quite likely, the most powerful entity in the universe (except one). “More powerful than you?” “By far.”
Fair warning sent to Hell Itself consists of a messenger. Cain. Some “Demons” bring Cain to Himself and Lucifer speaks to Cain… and notes that He knows him. “The first Man born of Woman. Cain.”
We have been assured that The Lord God Himself knows each of us by name (indeed, the hairs on our heads). It would not be a surprise to find that The Lord God Himself knows your name. To find that Lucifer Himself knows it? That must be unsettling.
Cain begins to give Dream’s message but is interrupted by Lucifer (who, all things considered, probably would be impatient and probably wouldn’t have much use for protocol). Cain spits it out: “Dream is coming here.” Having delivered the message, the Demonic Personal Retinue of Lucifer Himself ask if they may now chew Cain up and spit him out… where Lucifer tells them no. He cannot give them permission to do that. He brushes aside the bangs of Cain to reveal a Mark and Lucifer explains that Cain has been under the protection of The Lord God Himself since the fourth chapter of Genesis. “Loose his bounds and leave Us.”
(Seriously, the first time I read that part of the story, I had a sharp intake of breath. Of course Dream would send Cain. It was a surprise at the start but, in retrospect, that was the one guy Dream *COULD* send.)
Lucifer and Cain then have a short theological discussion about the Cainite Heresy. According to Lucifer (but not Wikipedia), the Cainites were a debauched and abberant sect that worshipped Cain (and saw him as the victim of Abel)… and no greater percentage of Cainites ended up in Hell than any other religion’s followers. “Amusing, isn’t it?”, Lucifer asks. Cain responds, “I wouldn’t know.”
I suppose he wouldn’t.
Lucifer then does his part to explain the stakes: the last time Dream came to Hell, Dream embarrassed Lucifer publicly. Lucifer swore to destroy Dream… and now Lucifer knows that Dream will be back and soon.
We jump to Hippolyta Hall and her new, yet unnamed, baby. Dream stops by long enough to see this child formed in his realm and tell his mother that his name is Daniel.
We jump through dreams to find Cecile Latour where Dream finds a bottle of Chateau Lafite 1828. (I googled it, it looks like there aren’t any… but there are prices for 1928 here. $3000. I’m sure it’s an investment.) Dream goes on to find Hob and to sit with him and explain that, hey, maybe their next drink at the pub won’t happen. Dream acknowledges that he may be gone a long time and Hob gets a shiver when he thinks about what Dream would consider to be “a long time”.
If we might not meet again, we will need a toast and it ought to be a good one… and Hob gives us this:
To Absent Friends, Lost Loves, Old Gods, and the Season of Mists; and may each and every one of us always give the Devil His due.
One of those toasts that, of course, was the only one Hob could have made. Hob’s current squeeze wakes him up due to Hob’s talking in his sleep and Hob notices half a bottle of something on the nightstand. (I wonder if the label is legible…)
Jump back to Hell where Cain is begging for mercy from Lucifer Morningstar as Himself is giving a monologue. It’s strange. If the intention is to get me to feel a bit of pity for Cain, the intention was misguided. I admit to thinking that, yeah, Cain probably would benefit from wishing that someone else would be nicer to him. (Yeah, I know… Cain is not just the First Man born of Woman, but an archetype in his own right and his killing of Abel is something that is important for him to do, over and over and over again. Still.)
There is a danger in writing lines and putting them in the mouth of Lucifer. They must be worthy of Him. If you cannot make a line worthy of the second most powerful entity in all of creation, you should probably write a story about some of the lesser entities.
“But there is only one that We have ever owned to be Our superior. There is but one greater than Us. And to Him… to Him We no longer speak.”
Okay. That’ll do.
“Go back to your master. Tell him We received his message. Tell him We will be waiting for him. Tell him… tell him that Hell is anticipating his visit most avidly.”
And Cain is sent off allowing Lucifer to give a speech to Hell in mirror image to the one Dream gave the Dreaming. The high note is that many think that one day in Hell is much like another (the downside of it being as bad as it gets)… but Dream’s next visit to Hell will give everyone a day to remember For Ever.
We return to the Dreaming to see Lucien announce to Dream that Cain has returned. We see Cain give Dream Lucifer’s message (not the message, just the content) and he’s whinging about Lucifer treating him poorly. (I still find amusement instead of pity. I suppose I am a bad person.) Lucien points out that Dream can still change his mind and Dream points out to Lucien that, indeed, he cannot.
And we get ready to Go To Hell.