SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for The Sandman Universe #1 by Neil Gaiman, Simon Spurrier, Kat Howard, Nalo Hopkinson, Dan Watters, Bilquis Evely, Tom Fowler, Dominike “Domo” Stanton, Max Fiumara, Sebastian Fiumara, Mat Lopes and Simon Bowland, on sale now.
Something is very wrong in The Dreaming, and Dream himself is missing. As teased at the end of Dark Nights: Metal, Dream has vanished from his home domain and his absence is causing ripples and ruptures far beyond his kingdom of dreams. The Sandman Universe #1 sets up four new titles spinning out of these events — The Dreaming, House of Whispers, Lucifer and Books of Magic — but leaves us on a tantalizing cliffhanger regarding Dream himself.
Why is the king of dreams missing, and what does his role in Dark Nights: Metal have to do with it, and how does Doomsday Clock affect Dream's place in the DC Universe? Considering The Sandman and affiliated titles have always existed at the peripheries of mainline continuity, the answer might just lie at the heart of the DC Universe.
The Sandman Universe #1 starts with a scene we’ve witnessed previously, in the epilogue to Dark Nights: Metal #6 as Lucien, the faithful librarian notices that a book is missing from his meticulously catalogued library. What’s worse, is that Lucien can’t even remember which book goes in that empty spot, which should alarm anyone familiar with The Sandman and its supporting characters, because Lucien knows everything about that library backwards and forwards. Summoned by Merv Pumpkinhead, Lucien witnesses the tear across The Dreaming which is causing the kingdom of dreams to slowly unravel and the brothers Cain and Abel — mostly Cain — insist that Lucien summon their king, Dream.
Lucien uses Dream’s helm in a bid to summon his lord; fans of Sandman will recognize the mounted helmet as one of the most powerful items which belonged to the previous incarnation of Dream, Morpheus. The helm was one of three items stolen from Morpheus when he was captured Roderick Burgess and eventually wound up in the possession of a demon within Lucifer’s Hell, causing Dream to challenge the demon for his own helmet and making an enemy of Lucifer in the process of winning it back.
When his lord doesn’t answer the call through the helm, Lucien summons Matthew The Raven and instructs him to search everywhere for Dream; a journey which takes Matthew through the lives and dreams of Dora, Timothy Hunter, Erzulie and Lucifer himself, the four protagonists of the upcoming Sandman Universe titles. Ultimately, Matthew tracks Dream down to Manhattan where he finds him wearing something approaching regular human clothes, among the hustle and bustle of the mortals of this world but Dream sends Matthew away, wiping his memory of ever finding his king. Returning to The Dreaming, Matthew reports back to Lucien who confides in the raven that the helm has fallen from the wall on which it was mounted, a sign that Dream has quit.