Monday, October 26, 2015

OCTOBER COMICS (2015): Sandman #6

“24 Hours,” written by Neil Gaiman, art by Mike Dringenberg & Malcolm Jones, III, colors by Robbie Busch, lettering from Todd Klein

Dr. Destiny—in possession of Morpheus’s ruby, which holds much of his power—has escaped from Arkham Asylum and is holed up in a 24-hour diner in a small town somewhere in America.  His mind already cracked from years of exposure to one of Morpheus’s tools, Dr. Destiny has such a fractured psyche that he takes delight in the torment and horrors inflicted upon others.  He watches the television with glee as the atrocities of the world are revealed to those in the diner, and Destiny uses the powers of the ruby to inflict similarly horrific cruelties upon the few patrons unlucky enough to have entered the diner around the time he is there.  

Through his manipulation of the ruby, Destiny unearths these ugliest thoughts and, for some, fantasies of those around him, affording them the opportunity to realize these horrors (including homophobia, misogyny, and incredibly disturbing physical and emotional tortures) without inhibition.  It’s chilling and uncomfortable, a comic that doesn’t flinch when confronted with the ugliness of humanity. 

Gaiman is ably abetted by his artistic collaborators, Mike Dringenberg and Malcolm Jones, III.  The first issue wherein co-creator Sam Kieth was no longer part of the artistic team, the transition away from Kieth’s more cartoonish approach works to the advantage of this issue.  Dringenberg & Jones have a more angular, scratchy delineation (an almost tighter Eddie Campbell style) that increases the sense of urgency and dread, as we follow the cruelties perpetrated by these people over the course of twenty-four hours.  The ugliness of the acts are amplified by the cartooning of Dringenberg & Jones, who are not afraid to exaggerate anatomy and expressions in one panel to great narrative effect, while then returning to more natural imagery in the next, in order to ground the story. 

It is this grounding of the narrative, by Gaiman, Dringenberg, and Jones, that is the most horrifying aspect of the comic.  These are normal people, ones you may know or could easily run into while walking downtown, while the supernatural effects happen invisibly, in the mind of Dr. Destiny, revealing horrors we may have experienced, either personally or second hand, or seen on the news.  The horrors that occur in this small diner are not out of the ordinary; they are the black spots on our souls that we all deal with—though, for most of us, these dark spots are merely flashes of frustration that pop up in fits of pique, that are quickly diminished because we are civil and rational.  But it is this familiarity that makes this story all the more chilling.  



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