The Sandman - Issue 5 - Passengers
Updated: Feb 25
RECAP: The fifth issue of Sandman is perhaps the most connected the series has been with the mainstream DC universe. We get cameos, and easter eggs abound in this, but these little gems are merely garnishing for the main storyline - the escape of John Dee, aka Doctor Destiny. I admit, I barely remembered this character from Justice League lore, but he was never as sinister as he appears in this issue of Sandman.
When we last saw John, news of Ethel Cripps' death was presented to him by an indifferent guard, along with the amulet acquired from Chronozon for the trade of Morpheus's helm. The opening pages of this issue show us what John did with it. John is out of his cell, leaving the first of his victims dead behind him. During his escape from Arkham, he encounters the first of our cameos.
Doctor Jonathan Crane, aka The Scarecrow from Batman's gallery of rogues.
What I enjoyed almost as much as the dark goings-on in the rest of the issue is the interaction of these villains. Far removed from their megalomaniacal portrayals elsewhere, we see their relationships when they aren't trying to rule the world or turn everyone into zombie tortillas. In Crane's case, he is very much the psychiatrist, humoring John's proclamations while at the same time revealing Arkham to be their 'safe space' when the world gets too scary. Or, presumably, after Batman has foiled whatever scheme they've concocted. If released today, comparisons would be made to Hannibal Lecter, except when this issue was released, Silence of the Lambs was two years away.
Yet the reasonable persona presented by Crane, which includes a cute Joker mention, is an illusion. Crane is just as deranged as John, as evidenced by the dead guard John finds when he continues his escape. Leaving Arkham, John stops a car and takes its driver hostage at gunpoint.
The issue then diverges into two directions, both fascinating.
Readers of New Gods will immediately recognize our next cameo. For those who don't, Scott Free is a superhero, Mr. Miracle, from the Giffen-DeMatteis era of Justice League. Scott is dreaming of his childhood on Apokolips. He relives the brutal and inhuman lessons taught by Granny Goodness, Darkseid's sadistic drill sergeant once again depicted here with far more horror than any mainstream comic. At the nightmare's climax, Scott is rescued from further trauma by Morpheus and wakes up to find the Lord Shaper at his bed, making a request.
Like the Netflix episode, we spend much of this issue with John and his captive driver, Rosemary. Rosemary is terrified of the naked ghoulish character wielding a gun in her car. She foolishly attempts to assert control of her situation until she realizes she is standing on a razor's edge with a deranged killer. To her credit, she tries to reach out to John with compassion, and for a time, he seems receptive to it.
At the Justice League townhouse, Scott and Morpheus seek out the ruby acquired when the League defeated Doctor Destiny. It was kept in the JLA satellite destroyed during the Crisis of the Infinite Earths. Scott concludes the one person who might know the ruby's fate definitively is J'onn J'onzz, the Martian Manhunter (another cameo!).
J'onn immediately recognizes Morpheus, not as the Dream we know but as Lord L'Zoril, and drops to his knees in reverence. We learn the ruby is known to the Martians as D'orilar - the Stone of Binding. After J'onn reveals that the ruby might be kept in a JLA storehouse in the town of Mayhew, Morpheus goes on his way, but not without giving J'onn a little boon. A dream of the City of Focative Mirrors, whatever that is, which I assume is pleasant.
Rosemary continues to reach out to John, who tries to explain that he isn't a magician but a scientist who is smart enough to harness the ruby's powers by altering its makeup. As a result, John is the only one who can now use it, a realization Morpheus discovers rather painfully when he reaches the ruby in Mayhew. Completely incapacitated, Morpheus is oblivious to John's arrival in town.
What follows is the one scene I'm glad Gaiman decided to change in the series. Rosemary, lulled into a sense of confidence she's made a connection with John, learns how wrong she is when he murders her anyway. Really Neil, do we need to kill all the nice people?
John arrives at the storehouse and finds the ruby and an unconscious Morpheus. Morpheus's brief connection with the gem has made it more powerful, and John leaves, resuming his journey of madness to destroy the world.
Starting with a diner that's opened All Hours...
And that's it for Issue 5! Join me next week, same time, same page.
NEXT - Issue 6 - 24 Hours
PREVIOUS - Issue 4 - A Hope in Hell