28 September 2013

The Kindly Ones

The Sandman graphic novels are intended for mature readers and though this post doesn't go into explicit detail there is discussion of events in the collection, including death and sex and revenge. Just so you know.

The Kindly Ones is the name (translated of course) that the Ancient Greeks gave to the Furies. Ancient Greek language had a habit of euphemisms, but rather than calling bad thing by good names to disguise their true nature it seems that they did this to appease the bad things. So, a dangerous sea was called the nice-to-strangers sea, and terrifying mythical forces of retribution and purification were called kindly.

The Castle (prologue)
Told mostly in first person POV, Lucien gives a dreamer a tour of the castle, believing he is an expected guest. Starting with his library, Lucien visits Merv, Nuala, Matthew and Abel, before Dream appears and says that this person is not his guest.

The Maiden, Mother and Crone -in their aspect as the Fates- are in a cottage, creating and commenting on lives (and stories). Lyta is a stressed mother with her friend Carla as her only support, Carla persuades Lyta to meet with her cousin Eric about a job. Meanwhile Matthew wants to know what happened to the previous ravens in the Dreaming and Morpheus starts recreating the Corinthian. Lyta meets Eric at Lux, a restaurant/club run by Lucifer, and is offered a job, she senses something is wrong and rushes home to find her son Daniel has been taken.
Lyta is blank as Carla calls the police and two detectives show up to ask questions about Daniel's disappearance. Cluracan visits his sister Nuala in the Dreaming, he steps off the path in Dream's castle and accidentally creates his own nemesis. He tells Nuala she is to come back to Faerie with him. Carla is sleeping on Lyta's sofa and is woken by Lyta screaming. She dreamed of three witches (the Maiden, Mother and Crone) who live her mind. Cluracan takes a reluctant Nuala to see Morpheus and request she is returned to Faerie, Morpheus agrees and gives her a gift.
Loki and Puck build a fire and put Daniel onto it. Hob Gadling leaves flowers at the snowy grave of his recently-deceased lover. He sees his old friend and they go for a drink, at the end Hob tells Morpheus he's worried about him, in his long life he's come to recognise the signs of impending death. Destiny, Desire and Despair behave oddly and Delirium realises she has lost her dog. Lyta is falling apart, she accidentally breaks Eric's arm, Carla gets angry and leaves. Lyta stays up all night waiting for Daniel's return. The detectives come back and tell her they found the burned body of an infant in the desert, it's Daniel. Lyta remembers the times Morpheus showed an interest in Daniel and she snaps.
The angel Remiel, reluctant ruler of Hell, visits Lucifer to suggest he return to his abandoned kingdom. Lucifer refuses and insults Remiel, who returns to Hell without discussing "the Dream King situation". Lyta wanders through a magical land and also the streets of LA, looking for the Furies, though the people/figments she meets warn her not to call them that. Carla visits Daniel's babysitter who lives downstairs, turns out it's Rose Walker, she fell asleep when Daniel was taken but she hasn't been visited by the detectives. Lyta wanders to the house of two sisters, who hope Lyta will stay and be their new sister. Morpheus recreates the Corinthian, using a fragment of the old Corinthian.
Lyta is in the home of the two immortal gorgons, who want her to replace Medusa, she's already growing snakes in her hair. Lyta leaves because she wants Furies. Rose visits her old friend Zelda, who is dying of AIDS and gets a message to return to where her grandmother slept to get her heart back. Morpheus sends Matthew and the Corinthian to find a child. Nuala returns to Faerie and must wear her old glamour. Carla goes to the police station, but they don't know what she's talking about when she mentions Daniel's disappearance or the two detectives she spoke to. She tries to talk to Rose about what's going on, but Rose is leaving for England. Carla is met by the red-headed detective, who turns out to be Loki. He kills her with fire.
Rose flies to England and is met by Jack, a young solicitor, who takes her to her grandmother's old nursing home. Rose doesn't find anything in Unity's old room, but she meets three old residents, one of whom tells her a rather nasty fairy story. Rose also meets Paul McGuire and his comatose lover Alex Burgess, and is invited to visit Paul in the manor house.
Larissa (formerly called Thessaly) finds Lyta in the street and takes her to her place as part of an agreement with old powers. Odin visits the Dreaming and accuses the Dream King of letting Loki go free, Morpheus explains that he came to an arrangement with Loki. Odin warns of what Loki is like, but he is disappointed rather than angry. Delirium visits Destiny to help find her dog and notices the statue of Dream looks sad, Destiny simultaneously tells her not visit Dream and to visit him. Larissa creates messy protections for the barely-conscious Lyta, who finishes her journey at the home of the Furies, called the Kindly Ones. Morpheus visits Fiddlers Green and speaks to Gilbert, the Dreaming hasn't been the same since Orpheus died. The Furies tell Lyta they cannot punish Dream for killing her son, but they can punish him for killing his own son.
Dream spends a week doing his duties, visiting all parts of the Dreaming and the palace, talking to the staff. He wanders the waking world too, visiting properties he owns there. Whilst reviewing treaties and agreements he is visited by Delirium, who asks him to help look for her dog. She mentions responsibilities besides the ones he talks about, and he sends her on the search with a helpful nightmare. Rose Walker updates her journal; she seduced Jack the solicitor and really likes him. The Corinthian and Matthew go to the morgue where Carla's body is, the Corinthian discovers Loki killed her. Ravens gather in the Dreaming as the Kindly Ones visit Dream's castle and kill his gryphon gatekeeper. They threaten Morpheus and leave. The Corinthian and Matthew close in on Daniel. Rose calls Jack and discoves he isn't single. A funeral is held for the gryphon.
Rose visits Paul McGuire at Fawney Rigg (the old manor house where Dream was trapped for decades) and is given a tour. She discovers a secret passageway to the basement and the glass case Dream was held in. She meets her grandfather, Desire, and rants about how terrible love is. The Corinthian and Matthew are in a Norse realm, Loki tries to trick them but the Corinthian breaks his neck and takes his eyes. In the Dreaming the Kindly Ones search for targets and kill Gilbert, Matthew is unwillingly pulled back to the Dreaming to join the other ravens. Dream visits Larissa, and we learn that she was the woman he was seeing before Brief Lives, she has protected Lyta so he cannot kill her to stop the Furies. The Corinthian finds Daniel.
The Corinthian breaks the silver cord that links Daniel to his body and speaks with Puck, who reveals that he and Loki burned away most of Daniel's mortality. Puck returns to Faerie, the Corinthian takes Daniel to the Dreaming and Loki is collected by Odin and Thor and taken back to his punishment. The Furies kill Abel. In Faerie Puck's return is upstaged by Nuala appearing without her glamour. Cluracan puts a glamour on her and lies to avert his Queen's wrath. Nuala is made to dance with Puck, who tells her the Dream King is in mortal danger. Merv Pumpkinhead tries to take on the Kindly Ones and is destroyed. Lucien criticises Morpheus for allowing them to kill the people of the Dreaming. Nuala runs into the woods and encounters Delirium, who tried to get Dream to leave the Dreaming. Rose Walker returns to the US and chats to a woman on the plane. Nuala calls Morpheus to her, to try and help him, and discovers that making him leave the Dreaming has only made things worse.
The Corinthian finds the Dreaming much changed on his return and goes to the Castle with Cain. Morpheus tells Nuala about the Kindly Ones, and Nuala thinks he wants them to punish him for Orpheus's death. Morpheus nearly tells Nuala that he realises his imprisonment did change him. Nuala reveals that she loves him and tells him to return to where he should be. Rose discovers that Zelda died while she was in England, and pays the final medical bills and funeral costs. In the throne room Lucien, Cain, the Corinthian and Daniel wait for Morpheus's return. In Destiny's garden there are many Destinies as a reality storm is created from conflicting realities. Morpheus returns to his castle, the Kindly Ones have taken the Dreaming and leave him with a scar. Lyta sees Daniel isn't dead and asks the Furies to stop, but they don't do rescues, only revenge. Morpheus prepares to do what he must.
Morpheus has an emerald dream stone, a lesser version of his ruby, which he gives to Daniel. Matthew declares he will follow him to his confrontation with the Kindly Ones. Delirium goes to Lux. Rose visits famous TV drag queen Vixen, who turns out to be her old friend and landlord Hal. She tells him Zelda died, but there was clearly some bad history between him and Chantal (who already died of AIDS) and Zelda, and Hal is incredibly unsympathetic. Delirium asks Lucifer to help her brother, he can't. Nuala decides she'll leave Faerie after a conversation with her brother. Dream faces the Kindly Ones. Death appears in the castle, looking for her brother. Dream sends Matthew back to the castle to give his helm and pouch to Daniel, and to tell his sister to join him.
Death joins Dream in a scene mirroring her first appearance. This time it is far too late for her to yell at him for not talking to her. In the throne room the survivors wait and the Corinthian keeps Daniel safe. Death tells Dream that she suspects he meant to get himself into the position he's in and points out that he's been through worse before. She points out that he could have left like Destruction. Dream says that he couldn't and Death realises that he's right. A quake shakes the roots of the Dreaming, Nuala flees, Loki realises he might have been manipulated, the ravens wait. Death sends the Furies away. She tells Dream he's been preparing for this for a long time without telling himself that's what he was doing. He takes her hand and dies.
Nuala is grudgingly allowed to leave Fearie. Delirium finds Barnabas on a street in LA. Lucifer decides to leave Lux. Rose goes to Zelda's funeral and is joined by a barely apologetic Hal, she reveals she thinks she's pregnant. Alex Burgess wakes from his nightmarish punishment. Lyta wakes from her catatonia in Larissa's apartment and is told to flee. Daniel hold's Dream's emerald and changes. He isn't Daniel now, he's Dream. In their cottage the Fates discuss what they have made and start on the next one.

This is possibly the Sandman graphic novel I've read the least (well perhaps it ties with The Wake and Endless Nights). At one point I'd read all the preceding volumes before reading a new one I'd bought, and so I think The Kindly Ones isn't as strong in my memory as the others.
Firstly I'd like to say that I've realised that something I put in my Worlds' End post, at the end of the foreshadowing bit, isn't correct. I didn't think that the barmaid at the end was Thessaly/Larissa, possibly because it hadn't even occurred to me on my first reading and I'd heard the theory separate to my reading of the series. Turns out, on rereading The Kindly Ones, that I was wrong. Larissa dreams about the bar, and the picture shows somewhere like the bar shown at the end of the previous volume. Plus in dialogue she makes it clear that she was in Chicago for a time between living in New York and LA.

Nextly I feel I should say, there are so many things. Just so many. Just look at the lists of reintroduced characters, and that's not even all the speaking parts in this collection.
I'm going to briefly mention some of the new characters and how they fit in with things. There's the unnamed LA tramp, who gives out flowers and begs for change. In the first issue he's threatened by Lyta for talking to Daniel. Later he tries to speak to Carla in the police station, he tells her that her mean friend "Got snakes in her hair. And she's not alone in her head anymore." At the end its turns out he's found/been found by Barnabas, and they've been having a good chat. He's wise enough to know that he already belongs to Delirium a bit and that it's best not to accept gifts from her. Then there are the three women in the English nursing home, Amelia, Magda and Helena, who briefly represent the triple goddess. Something not noticed by Rose, even though she has been researching the triple goddess in sitcoms. The one that seems most significant is Helena, whose last name is hard to say, who isn't English and who confesses to being driven by revenge and killing a man, before pretending she's joking. I suspect that she is in fact Hippolyta Hall's missing, Greek mother. Then on the aeroplane back to the States Rose talks about books with a British woman called Celia Cripps, who seems to be the niece of Ethel Cripps. Ethel Cripps was the former mistress of Roderick Burgess, who ran away to the States with her new lover, left him and became the mother of supervillain John Dee. Meaning this comfy woman, who doesn't like racy books, is the cousin of the terrifying and twisted antagonist of Preludes & Nocturnes.

When Cluracan visits the Dreaming he mentions that he spoke to Nuala and Morpheus while he was having trouble in Aurelia, which was the tale he told in Worlds' End. Both Nuala and Morpheus do not seem to recall this, though the topic passes quickly in conversation both times. Cluracan reported what he saw in the sky whilst at the Inn of World's End to Titania who refers to it as a foreseeing. I suspect that Cluracan actually has memories from a different version of reality, due to being caught in the reality storm. It was theorised that realities storms happen around big events and may be two (or more) different realities clashing until one remains. This is backed up by scene in which there are many Destinies, which represent many realities, until they disappear and only one remains - the Destiny of the extant reality. This means Cluracan was caught in the reality storm before it happened, or something like that.

Delirium isn't in this much, but she still gets some of the best lines. "Down the road I go. I am following my fishie. La la laaaa. Because my fish knows where to go."
To Mazikeen (Lucifer's loyal demon): "If you don't let me in, I will turn you into a demon half-face waitress night-club lady with a crush on her boss, and I'll make it so that you've been that from the beginning of time to now and you'll never ever know if you were anything else and it will itch inside your head worse than little bugses." It's the best threat ever, if it even is a threat.
She's also the one who points out to Dream that their existence deforms the universe. And at the end she says to Barnabas: "I think bad things have happened. I feel them in my socks." It's a great phrase, somehow made better because she's barefoot.

Other connections (but only some):
  • Whilst in the Dreaming Daniel plays with the toy versions of Wilkinson, Luz and Martin Tenbones from A Game of You
  • The chest with the old Corinthian's skull appeared in Season of Mists and holds various other significant things including the trapped demon Azazel and the bottled city of Baghdad
  • Morpheus visits the dreams of a small boy in Hong Kong, Nada was reincarnated as a boy in Hong Kong
  • The green faceless nightmare created in The Doll's House returns to its master with stuff it's found
  • Next to Alex Burgess's bed is a picture of Ethel Cripps that was addressed to his father and first seen in Preludes & Nocturnes, it is never specified whether she was his mother, but why else would he keep her picture, if she was then Doctor Dee was his half-brother. Alex also has what is likely to be the original Piglet toy from Winnie-the-Pooh on the bed next to him, possibly found by Paul as a child.
  • Lucifer plays Sit Down You're Rocking the Boat for a celebrating couple who will end the evening with him drowning in a boating lake, which we learn from a TV news report Lyta isn't really watching
  • Hal's new drag persona Vixen appears on Mary Gentian's TV show, Mary has featured previously on TV in Sandman comics
  • When seeing how Carla was killed the Corinthian also sees the death of Ruby (burned in a motel fire) from Brief Lives, and the tragedy of Nada (her glass city was destroyed by a fire ball sent by the sun), these are echoes from previous events, in which black woman are killed by fire
  • The rose-quartz dreamstone was given to Alianora, a former lover of Dream's who came to a bad end somehow and has a scar on her face from him, the stone and the woman featured in A Game of You; when Morpheus is scarred by the Kindly Ones he says Alianora predicted he would be scarred too
  • While visiting his properties in the waking world it looks as though Morpheus may have owned the Florida house Rose Walker, Zelda and Chantal, Ken and Barbie, Hal and Gilbert lived in in The Doll's House, though apparently Hal was the landlord but the suggestion is that he sold it after that night
  • Loki and Puck are clearly working for someone, and Puck quips that he could answer endlessly, suggesting one of the Endless, Loki seems bitter at being beholden to Dream but later realises he may have been manipulated where he thought he was manipulating
  • Lyta's memories of Morpheus are all ones from previous comics, suggesting that he never had that chat with Lyta explaining his interest in Daniel, its understandable that Lyta thought he was behind Daniel's disappearance and it seems she somehow has a link with the Furies from her mother
  • The nurse from the nursing is sadly reading a newspaper with a headline that seems to read "Local solicitor kills himself when gay lover walks out", the suggestion is that Jack came clean to his partner about his night with Rose and things went badly wrong
  • When Larissa tells Lyta to flee she s reading a book called When Real Things Happen to Imaginary People
  • When Morpheus walks in the waking world he listens to a woman playing her guitar and singing a song about a dream she had, although she's not pictured clearly I'm pretty sure it's Foxglove from A Game of You, who makes further appearances in the Death miniseries

The bulk of the art is by Marc Hempel and as you can see is a style distinct from the rest of the series. It looks simple, with blocks of colour and thick lines, however it is deceptive (like much of this book I'm sure), and conveys a wide variety of different scenes and moods with plenty of subtly and nuance. There's so much going on in the story and with the characters that it makes sense for the visuals to be clear and direct.

Desire leaves a heart-shaped lighter near Rose, but does not give it to her. Paul finds it on the floor and hands it to her, thinking it's hers. This is presumably Rose getting her heart back, which makes some sense as Desire (though her grandfather) doesn't relinquish things. Rose, fogged by her own sadness, doesn't seem to notice the significance of the moment and Paul would have absolutely no idea. The image is fairly different to the heart between hands images that have appeared previously.

Maiden, Mother & Crone
Lyta Hall
Griffin, Wyvern & Hippogriff
Merv Pumpkinhead
The Corithian
Hob Gadling
Rose Walker
Queen Titania
Paul McGuire
Alex Burgess
Gilbert/Fiddlers Green

Did he jump or was he pushed? It seems that somehow Morpheus did both. The full motivations and machinations behind this collection are still murky to me, like staring into a body of water. You know there's depth, you know the surface you can see is only a tiny part of the whole, but you don't know how far down it goes and what's in there.* I reckon Morpheus set a lot of it up, include Puck and Loki, certainly those who'd threatened to destroy him seemed shocked/sadden by events unfolding. I don't suppose he was fully, consciously aware of what he was setting up as he went, and I'm sure he told himself he would remain in control all the way, and maybe he did. I'd be interested to hear other people's theories on this.

No foreshadowing this time, we don't need it any more.

Last time: Worlds' End
Next week: The Wake


* Which is why, in real life, you never jump into water unless you can see the bottom, or at least what's in there.

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