Ray – 9/10
Ray: Simon Spurrier’s reinvention of the Sandman Universe continues to unfold, as the Dreaming gets its first major villain. The odd behavior of current acting leader of the Dreaming, Lucien, led local ne’er-do-well Merv Pumpkinhead to make a radical move and unseal the coffin containing one particularly dangerous denizen of the realm.
That would be Judge Quentin Gallows, the mystical manifestation of justice first seen in the Silver Age anthology Unexpectedin 1969. Merv was hoping that Gallows would bring some sense of order to the realm and assist the overwhelmed Lucien – a job he begins to accomplish all too well. After flashbacks showing Gallows’ twisted origins, the Judge introduces himself to Lucien as a willing servant and convinces him to take some time off and let the Judge continue with his plans. Lucien, close to breaking down already, agrees – a decision that anyone familiar with comics knows will end very badly. Judge Gallows has a silver tongue, but dark intentions.
As soon as Lucien is gone, Gallows turns his attention to the “soggies”, the strange creatures that have begun doing the work of the Dreaming. Merv has always been bigoted towards these new residents, so he doesn’t fight back when Gallows begins experimenting on them in sadistic ways. Things escalate when the rogue “Soggy” in league with Dora stages an assassination attempt on Gallows, who survives.
Gallows them takes the Black Chest from which he came and uses it to resurrect his two brutish enforcers. They then march on Dora’s cabin, where she’s keeping the shooter. The series has been vague on Dora’s exact nature for most of the run, but this issue gives us some major clues. More importantly, it doesn’t take long for Gallows’ plan to reach its culmination, leaving him as the unquestioned ruler of the Dreaming as even Merv begins to realize he’s made a horrible mistake. This is definitely a more conventional, action-packed take on the franchise than Sandman ever was, but it’s a fascinating narrative so far.