The Kindly Ones was the epic climax, tying together myriad Sandman storylines into a delightful culmination of the series. The Wake, then, takes the loose ends left by those threads and elegantly offers endings for characters whose stories still go on after the universe-changing events of the previous volume.
Hefty spoilers follow for Volume 9: The Kindly Ones.
Morpheus, King of Dreams, is dead. In his place is the new ruler of the Dreaming. Well, not quite new…more like a replacement with certain facets tweaked. The Morpheus we knew and loved for nine volumes is gone, leaving the new Endless aspect of Dream in his place. Before the transition becomes official, the Endless and the millions of dreamers from the Waking World must mourn him. Much of The Wake is (gasp) a wake and funeral ceremony for Morpheus. The latter half follows a few characters who had interacted with him as they deal with the fallout of Dream’s death.
The first half of The Wake is a veritable who’s who of Sandman lore and characters. It’s a celebration of everything that came before. Characters from issues past resurface to pay their respects (or disrespects) to Morpheus. The eulogies range from sad to happy to funny, and it’s an elegant way to say goodbye to a character whose morality could never be pinned down. Morpheus served his own ends, striking tenuous friendships with others to further his personal schemes. Everything he said or did required unpacking. His goals, enshrouded in shadow until the very end, kept those closest to him constantly guessing at his motives. Holding a funeral for him is therefore an intriguing thing. Morpheus ruled the Dreaming, all the good and bad of it. And people have things to say about it now that he’s gone.
In the back half, we follow three characters, each treated to his own issue: Hob Gadling, a Chinese Sage lost in a Dream desert, and William Shakespeare. Each story is great in its own right, but I’ve got to shout out my boy Hob Gadling. He’s long been the most fascinating Dream-adjacent character in the series, for my money. The man is tired of death and meets with Morpheus every century. His issue follows his misadventures at a Ren Faire with his new girlfriend. He enters a condemned building and has a not-so-chance encounter with Death. Hob Gadling is interesting to me for his unique humanity. He is indeed a human, but his chosen immortality makes him something slightly more. He has to cope with the decisions he’s made over six centuries. Compared to the Endless, who can eliminate entire worlds without a second glance, Hob feels small on the grand scale, but his story is one of the most relatable Sandman yarns.
The Wake brought many a character arc to a close, ushering in the new era of the Dreaming. I adored many of the stories within and appreciated Gaiman’s deft treatment of beloved characters. Now we move to my final Sandman outing: Endless Nights.
Rating: Sandman Volume 10: The Wake – 8.5/10