The Doll’s House is the second volume in Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman. It collects issues #9-16 and focuses on Morpheus trying to track down a Vortex that would destroy the Dreaming. While Preludes & Nocturnes is just establishing the basics, The Doll’s House story arc shows you what The Sandman is capable of doing.
Dream does a census of the Dreaming and discovers that four of his creations have escaped his realm. He must track down Brute and Globe, the Corinthian, and Fiddler’s Green.
Meanwhile a young lady named Rose Walker is learning some things about her family. Like she has an English grandma named Unity Kinkaid. It turns out that when Dream was imprisoned, Rose’s grandma was stuck in a slumber. Someone raped her, she became pregnant and the child was adopted without her ever knowing what happened. Now that Dream is back, Unity is awake and wants to make up for lost time with the family she didn’t know that she had. The family reunion is not complete; Rose has a little brother named Jed that’s been missing for a few years. Rose decides to track him down.
Rose moves into a boarding house temporarily as she starts following Jed’s trail. Her landlord, Hal, works nightclubs as a drag queen. There’s a disgustingly preppy/yuppie couple named Barbie and Ken. There’s Chantal and Zelda, an ambiguous lesbian couple with a collection of stuffed spiders. And there’s Gilbert, an older gentleman with a knack for helping Rose when she needs it the most.
Rose’s quest coincides with Dream’s quest when we find out that Jed is being held hostage by Brute and Glob. They kept Jed in their own Dreamland. Morpheus comes to reclaim Brute and Glob and Jed is free, but is soon picked up by the Corinthian.
There’s a break from the main storyline and we learn about Dream’s friendship with an immortal named Robert “Hob” Gadling. In 1389, Dream and Death stop by a small tavern and hear Hob telling his friends that he doesn’t believe in death, that we only die because we think we have to. He decides that dying isn’t for him. Dream grants him the gift of immortality and the two of them meet in the same tavern every hundred years. Hob’s story is an intriguing distraction.
Rose and Gilbert end up staying at a remote hotel that happens to be hosting a convention for serial killers. The Corinthian is one of the guests of honor. Dream’s creation has been roaming around killing people and eating their eyes. He has a thing for eyes, probably because he doesn’t have any. He has eye sockets lined with sharp teeth. He’s a nightmare and enjoys what he does. Gilbert recognizes the Corinthian and tells Rose to call for Morpheus if she’s in trouble.
Rose gets attacked by one of the serial killers and she calls for Morpheus and he comes and saves her. Then he destroys the Corinthian. Gilbert finds Jed in the Corinthian’s trunk and he’s somehow still alive.
Morpheus tells Rose that she’s a Vortex, and that she will destroy the dreaming unless he kills her. Gilbert shows up and offers to take her place instead. And it turns out that he’s not really human, he is the missing fourth creation. Before he was Gilbert, he was Fiddler’s Green. And he’s not a person, he is a location. Fiddler’s Green in a place. Put that in your pipe and smoke it. Rose is resigned to her fate when grandma Unity comes strolling into the Dreamrealm. Back in the day, she would have been the Vortex, but shit got messed up when Morpheus got himself captured. Unity becomes the Vortex; Morpheus destroys her and saves the Dreaming. Rose gets to go and live with her mom and brother.
At the end of The Doll’s House you find out who raped Unity while she was sleeping. And even though I told you everything that happened, you still don’t know how it happened and that’s the interesting part.
Over the course of the book, you start seeing Rose’s reality crashing down all around her. Reality and Dreaming crash and collide and start to merge together. And you can already tell that Neil Gaiman has a master plan for his series. You can tell that he has everything planned out and that there’s no such thing as a minor character. It’s a very complex comic. Every character and every event is relevant to the overall story in some way.
I’m gonna keep saying that The Sandman is one of the best comics of all time until you read it. So get on it, because I’m tired of sounding like a broken record.
Critically Rated at 16/17
Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young