The Doll’s House
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>Opening with “Tales in the Sand,” a story about Dream’s doomed romance with Nada, The Doll’s House begins what becomes something of a dichotomy in The Sandman — the differences between women’s stories and men’s stories. Here, Neil Gaiman seems to be realizing the potential of The Sandman — these stories can take place anywhere, anytime and don’t necessarily have to be rooted in the DC universe.
He then introduces Rose Walker, who will drive the rest of the events of The Doll’s House. I wanted to be her when I grew up.
At 14, I hadn’t seen anyone in comics quite like her — a girl that looked like me, or rather, looked how I’d like to look. She was recognizable. Perhaps not intentionally, but Rose was pandering to a female audience.
Looking back, it’s not that Rose is particularly special. She’s cute, has a good sense of style and is fairly smart and savvy, but mostly, she’s just a girl.
But I think that’s why she works. I think she’s a large part of the reason why The Sandman got pegged as a comic that women would like.
I like the overall story — Rose goes searching for her brother and ends mixed up with several escaped dream figures as well as a convention of serial killers. Gaiman’s ability to pull elements from everywhere is as smart and as impressive as I remember (and the diversion of “Men of Good Fortune” is still delightful).
The dream vortex stuff, though, feels under-developed and tossed in there. The concept isn’t a bad one, but the resolution to it feels rushed and slightly tacked on. I think the serial killers/escaped nightmares/missing brother stuff was enough of a plot.
It’s a small complaint. I don’t think The Sandman had quite found its pace yet, but there is still some wonderfully inventive sequences and surprising elements. If I read this for the first time today, I would’ve liked it quite a bit.
(I have the old The Doll’s House collection – the one that included a summary of what happened in the first seven issues and also included “The Sound of Her Wings.” Wikipedia tells me why this is that way – at the time, there were no plans to collect the first seven issues – but it always sort of amused me in the “Oh, you don’t have to read those other ones, just start here” kind of way. Because for some people, that may not be the worst of ideas.)