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The Doll's House

The Doll's House (1990) is the second collection of issues in the DC Comics series, The Sandman. Written by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Mike Dringenberg[?], Malcolm Jones III[?], Chris Bachalo[?], Michael Zulli[?] and Steve Parkhouse[?], and lettered by Todd Klein[?].

Warning: Wikipedia contains spoilers

This is the collection where the Sandman series truly begins to find its feet as the great series it was to become. Beginning with a prologue set amongst an ancient African tribe - one of Gaiman's signatures as a writer is to write stories in many different traditions of storytelling, and this is the earliest example of this in the Sandman series - the rest of the book is devoted to one story arc, that of three female generations of one family - Rose Walker, her mother Miranda Walker and Miranda's mother Unity Kinkaid. The story introduces many of the series' recurring themes and characters, and one of its main storylines; some of the components of The Doll's House are continued later, particularly in the fifth collection, A Game of You, and the ninth, The Kindly Ones.

At the start of the story, Rose and Miranda are mysteriously summoned to England, where they discover that an old woman who has only just awoken from a sleep that had lasted many years (Unity features fleetingly in the first collection, Preludes and Nocturnes) is Miranda's mother and Rose's grandmother. Later in the collection, Rose - who is now living alone in an apartment block - finds she can merge the dreams of those who live in the same block. At this point, the series' protagonist, Morpheus, finally shows up, and tells Rose she is in fact a vortex of dream, something that exists only very occasionally, and that he must kill her to restore order to the Dreaming, or terrible consequences will result.

At this point another of the recurring themes of the series is made clear; the vortex should have been Rose's grandmother, Unity, but for the manipulations of Morpheus's younger sibling, Desire. The strains in the relationships among Morpheus' odd family - known as the Endless, and consisting of Destiny, Death, Destruction, Dream (Morpheus), Desire, Despair and Delirium - form a major part of the series, and this attempt by Desire to sabotage Morpheus' affairs is the first obvious demonstration of these family troubles.

The collection also introduces Hob Gadling, whom we first meet in a tavern at the end of the fourteenth century. He makes a deal with Morpheus to meet in the same tavern, every hundred years; the rest of these meetings form the rest of this particular issue. Hob pops up later on in the series, too.

Since it functions so well as a continuous storyline, the collection does not contain any obvious stand-out issues; possibly #9 ("Tales in the Sand", the prologue), #13 ("Men of Good Fortune", the issue featuring Hob Gadling) and #14 ("Collectors", an issue set at a convention of serial killers) will be remembered the clearest.

The issues in the collection originally appeared in 1989 and 1990. The collection first appeared in paperback in 1990, making it the first of the collections to actually be released (Preludes and Nocturnes was released as the series grew in popularity). This, perhaps, is the reason that early editions of the collection contain issue #8, which also appears in Preludes and Nocturnes. In more recent editions of the collections, #8 appears in Preludes and Nocturnes and The Doll's House starts with issue #9. The collection first appeared in hardback in 1995.

It was preceded by Preludes and Nocturnes and followed by Dream Country.

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