My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Issue #4 is a great climax to the Overture arc that carries the strong thematic elements Gaiman set in play with the very beginning of the story. Once again, this installment opens and closes with a specific set of figures: this time, squares. The overall move in this issue from concrete shapes to amorphous blurred elements and back seem to reinforce the different ways to interpret what happens in between. Or, as Dream/Daniel said to Mad Hettie in Overture issue #2, the different ways that Time flows.
The plot, straightforwardly put, is as follows: Dream speaks with his Father, asking for help with the force that wants to destroy the universe. He receives no aid, enters the City of the Stars with his cat-self and the girl Hope from issue #3, finds the Star That Hurts and fails to convince it to stop its mad plan to end all creation. But everything else that happens in between throws ripples of effect everywhere. Dream/Daniel’s mysterious errand in issue #2 pays off here, Dream’s past history with the Star That Hurts has a direct thru-line to his dealings with Unity & Rose in the series proper, and while Hope has been “deleted”, the Fates implied in the last issue that there was more to her than meets the eye.
For those of us who have read the series, we know what ending we are working toward here. Even still, Gaiman keeps introducing more information that not only keeps me flipping back through the Overture issues I already have, but make me want to go back through the regular Sandman series that I’ve already read to unpuzzle the complete implications of these previous events. The writing is alluring & the art that threatens to completely abuse the limits of the comic is amazing. I’m torn over whether I would recommend it as a starting point for readers who refuse to start a series unless they start at the very very beginning. The Overture arc does require some prior knowledge of the series in order to make sense. But having some knowledge of what Dream’s been through before the series proper might make his more difficult choices easier to understand.
And I would just like to say as an aside that given the fates of women who get involved with Dream, (read: ends badly), I kinda have to give it up for his last lover Thessaly, who not only had the balls to seek him out, but to get out of the relationship relatively unscathed & intact.