We’re continuing Brief Lives, with Mike Schilling and Glyph recapping Chapters 5 and 6, respectively.
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 Calliope 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.
Season of Mists recaps here: Jaybird reviewed the first two in this post. Jason Tank reviewed the next two here. Boegiboe reviewed the next two after that here and here. Ken reviewed the final two here.
Fables and Reflections recaps here: Ken and Jaybird reviewed the preview plus the first two issues here. Mike Schilling and Jaybird did the next two issues here. KatherineMW did the next issue here. Glyph, Ken, and Russell did the Sandman Special issues here.
It’s very difficult to discuss this book without discussing the next one (or the one after 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!
Brief Lives – Chapter 5
Ishtar arrives at Tiffany’s place bearing food, which Tiffany is too wiped out to appreciate properly. As Ishtar makes breakfast for them, Tiffany tells a story about a junkie cancer she’d worked with who shot up in her eyes to hide the tracks. It’s a story only the Corinthian would enjoy. Ishtar cajoles a balky Tiffany into trying some eggs, but she spits them right back up. There’s a real mother-infant vibe between them.
Delirium is driving, exactly as well as you’d expect, weaving on both sides of the road in a manner that displays either complete incompetence or immense skill. Your guess is as good as mine. Dream, the big meanie, won’t let her change the car i to a giant centipede. A policeman pulls her over; neither she nor Dream know who he is or why he stopped them, but Delirium always enjoys meeting new people. Not this one, though, as his (quite accurate) opinion of her driving makes him quite stern with her. In retaliation, she curses him with feeling invisible bugs all over him, for the rest of his life. Or possibly longer. Driving isn’t fun anymore, so she wants to teleport to Tiffany, but Dream vetos this, and summons Matthew to act as a driving instructor.
Tiffany has now woken up all the way and made herself quite presentable. She asks Ishtar why she named herself after a bad movie. Tiffany named herself after an expensive watch of her mother’s, which she stole when she left home. Another question about Ishtar: she’s obviously not dancing her best. Why is she holding back? There’s something mysterious about that one. More of Tiffany’s life store: all the men she meets are bums. Ishtar used to know a good one, long ago, but they split up, because his job and family got in the way. I wonder if it’s anyone we know? Tiffany has a stringe, mystical moment: it’s like a big, black bird is shouting at her. I wonder if …
Yup, it’s Matthew the driving instructor, and what he’s shouting is
In the funniest panel I’ve seen so far, Delirium is continuing to drive just as before (with one car veering out of her way and another flipping her, so the speak, the bird), she is smiling sunnily, Dream is calm, though the speed is blowing back his hair, and Matthew has completely lost it, screaming in a blind panic that she’s going to kill them all. He seems to have forgotten that he’s already dead. Delirium’s so happy she doesn’t even mind being yelled at. She asks quite nicely what this right side of the road he’s screaming about might be, and is willing to give it a try. Though what she’d really like to do is stop the car in the middle of the freeway and jump up and down to celebrate their shared appreciation of 101 Dalmatians.
Tiffany, Ishtar, and another stripper named Nancy, discuss temple prostitution, which Ishtar seems to know a lot about. Nancy too, though with her it was women’s studies courses. Nancy wonders (and this is a bit on the nose) what happened to the old gods and goddesses when their temples were destroyed. Ishtar jokes that maybe some of the become dancers. Nancy makes a joke about “Goddesses in the sex industry”as a TV talk show theme, which offends Tiffany, who thinks she’s in show biz. They spat, and Ishtar calms them down. (Nancy, by the way, dances as “Mai Lai”. I’m sure that means something.) Ishtar dances, and she’s quite good, but nothing like the old magic.
The car arrives, somehow in one piece. Matthew waxes nostalgically about strip clubs he has known. Ishtar sense something, and starts to dance a bit more vividly. The bouncer gives Delirium a bad time about trying to being a bird in, but Dream gives him the “These are not the droids you’re looking for” treatment before Delirium can escalate matters. Ishtar sees them and runs away, back to her dressing room. Dream comes in and clears the room of everyone but the two of them. She despises him, blaming him for her breakup with Destruction. He dismises that, asking her where Destruction is. She doesn’t know. He warns her that she might be in danger. As he turns to go, she tells him that she really did love his brother. “Of course”, he responds “You were the goddess of Love.” Always the charmer.
Dream collects Delirium, who’s ready to go, and Matthew, who is not. As they leave, Ishtar begins to dance. For real. It’s too much for the men in the club, who all expire from over-excitement. Then the club literally explodes. Tiffany, who has run outside, is the only survivor. As she cries in her g-string, Desire, who was drawn by the strength of Ishtar’s passion, kindly gives her his jacket to wear. And disappears.
Brief Lives – Chapter 6
We open on Destruction, trying his hand at another creative pursuit, poetry. His long-suffering canine companion, Barnabas, deems the results doggerel, and he’d know. (Worth noting is that the poem once again concerns eyes and sight). It seems that Barnabas has never met any of the other Endless; Destruction implies that they are to be feared, and that he is avoiding them. We cut to:
Dream, bailing on Delirium and their quest. Dream only came on the trip as a distraction anyway, and has noticed that their quest often appears to be proving fatal to the people they are interacting with on the way. Delirium doesn’t take this well, and storms/sulks back to her realm. Cut to:
Dream, back in The Dreaming, and being a killjoy to a dancing/singing Nuala for no good reason. He tells Lucien he’s back and the quest is over, and heads to his throne room. He calls Pharamond to notify him of the abandoned car, and apologize for Ruby’s death, which he feels responsible for – not only was she under his protection, but he is convinced her death was related to the quest itself. Pharamond takes the news of Ruby’s death in stride; hey, mortals, what’re ya gonna do? But Dream seems troubled…
So he closes off the throne room, and conjures a dream of desert and Bubastis in which to meet Bast, Goddess of Cats. She seems pleased to see him, and teases him a bit; if Destruction is a dog person (confirmed by Bast), Dream as we know is a cat person, and so they get on well – though despite her shameless flirting, they do not appear to have ever been lovers.
They get to the meat of it – Dream wants to know if Bast knows Destruction’s location, as she had implied when last they met; Bast confirms she was lying. (Typical cat!) She wants to know why Dream sought her out in dreams – he does not answer, but I assume meeting her on his own turf was done for her safety. He takes his leave, and we get a brief vignette of an awakened Bast back in “reality” – both Bast and her temple as seedy and rundown and indistinct as she was beautiful and the dream was lovely. She aches and she’s old – scared and skinny and raggedy and weak; even gods have brief lives, compared to the Endless.
It’s pretty depressing, actually.
Luckily, we immediately get some comic relief, as back in the Dreaming, Mervyn Pumpkinhead is adding a new wing to Lucien’s library in much the same way that Wile E. Coyote adds a tunnel to a dead-end mountain road, and pontificating to Lucien about their boss, who in his considered blue-collar opinion is “a little flaky” (hey, poets, what’re ya gonna do?). Dream is of course behind him, and twists the awkward knife a bit by praising Lucien’s service during Dream’s imprisonment, and questioning Mervyn’s during that same period (love Mervyn’s hemming and hawing and “I drove a bus…” callbacking to issue #5, Passengers).
Lucien lets Dream know that he has been unsuccessful in finding any info about who or what was causing so much mayhem on the quest, and also lets him know that Delirium’s sigil in Dream’s family gallery has gone black. So Dream calls Death, and she comes.
She already knows Delirium’s upset, and she’s sure it’s Dream’s fault. He protests, weakly – he stopped their quest for reasons of safety and he called Death as soon as he saw Delirium’s sigil go dark, he says; Death’s not having any of it, and tells him to go FIX it.
And Dream, as he usually does, listens to his big sister. I have no sisters, but Dream’s relationships with both the younger Delirium and the elder Death really ring true to me – anybody out there that can confirm?
So Dream goes to Delirium’s realm, and it’s as colorful and chaotic as you’d expect – actually, all the art in this volume is remarkably expressive. It’s psychedelic madness, equal parts epiphany and violent psychosis. The sundial at the realm’s center is a neat little joke, from the punning inscription (“Tempus Frangit” – “Time Breaks”, rather than the traditional “Tempus Fugit”), to the fact that it actually is “broken”, to the way Dream attempts to latch onto it for purposes of making ice-breaking small talk with his sister.
Actually, let’s pause for a moment to consider that sundial. I assume it’s a reference to several things: One, we know that at some point in the distant past, Delirium was once Delight; so is the inscription a reference to her own transformation (time does in fact “break” all things, potentially even the Endless)? Two, of course it’s stopped – a sundial depends on fixed mounting and predictable celestial mechanics for its function, two concepts I’d expect to be nonexistent in Delirium’s realm. Three, I see it as a “even a stopped sundial is right once a day” joke, implying yet again that for all of Delirium’s randomness, she occasionally has occult knowledge unavailable to the others, even to Destiny.
Delirium’s there, and she’s pissed – she’s hacked her hair off, and threatens Dream with the infliction of madness; as he’s in her realm, and doesn’t even have his helm for protection, she apparently could do this. Dream apologizes to her, admitting he originally only went along for selfish reasons (hoping to run into an ex – man, we’ve all been there, and it’s no less pathetic when an Endless does it), but he will resume their journey if she wishes.
And how sweet is it that Dream tells Delirium that he likes her (as best as he can tell her, that is – Bast wasn’t kidding when she said Dream’s way with words was one-of-a-kind) and even puts a hand on her shoulder? Not the touchy-feely type is our Morpheus, so the smallest kind gestures get magnified.
So the quest is back on, and Morpheus continues his evolution into a more empathetic being, one who actually recognizes the impact that his actions have on others!
What could possibly go wrong?