I will begin this piece by disclaiming any and all digressions, as it's appearing more and more likely that this installment will be nothing more than a long series of digressions. To be fair, it's like a new season premiere: reintroduce the main characters, redefine their relationships, set the plot in motion, raise the stakes from the previous season. Like all family reunions, there's some yelling, there's some fighting, some pompous ass who thinks he's too good for the rest of them, a mischievous younger sister, and the swearing of blood oaths. So while I could describe all that for you in greater detail, I'm sure you can read, and instead I'm going to put my sine over my cosine and end up on a tangent. So there.
We begin as Destiny walks through his garden, bumping into the Fates (If Destiny and Fate walked into a bar...) I will let others make the Jorge Luis Borges connections for you.
Instead, check out Destiny's pad (boy would I love a Sandman-themed series of MTV Cribs).
It becomes clear that the paintings on the wall are the other Endless, their sigils. But then, who's on the panels in front? Perhaps we can find clues in the origin of the design.
At first glance, I thought it was modelled on the Babylonian temple in the Pergamon museum:
But no. We know Neil Gaiman's a Doctor Who fan. Destiny's castle-cum-modest-estate is clearly modelled on the Tomb of Rassilon.
Which means, in a nutshell, in Destiny's land rest the souls of long-dead Timelords. I admit I'm having a bit of fun, but it's not an impossible theory, after all the 9th doctor used to go on about being able to experience all time at once (before one writer took that back and gave it to the TARDIS instead. Oh yeah, that was also written by Neil Gaiman).
In which I rhapsodize about fashion
In one of my favorite cases of Gaiman anticipating my own questions and then answering them, I thought the following after page 5-6: "Why are all the paintings from a much older era? Why are they painted in the realist tradition anyway? Why does Dream look a bit like George Washington crossing the Delaware?"
And then Desire waltzes in, commenting on how Destiny hasn't redecorated in 300 years. Clever, clever Gaiman. So 300 years ago, the Endless fancied themselves a bit...French. And given the Fates hint that the "King will forsake his kingdom," I suspect the similarity to Napolean is not a coincidence.
Fashion tips from Death: Suitable clothing for both informal and formal Endless occasions can be found at Hot Topic. I kid, I kid. While it's natural that Morpheus would find sartorial kinship with Napoleon, it's surprising to see Death as a lady.
The artist seems to have created an inversion of Vigee-Lebrun, who was one of Marie Antoinette's favored artists (this would make a sort of sense; the circumstances of her death define Marie Antoinette's life):
Or a more direct homage to John-Singer Sargent (though that wouldn't fit the time frame of "300 years ago":
I cannot begin to express my disappointment that we don't get to see portraits of Desire, though again, Gaiman explains that one away. I do find it strange though that Destiny hasn't updated the portrait of Delight, now that she's Delirium. Does that mean she'll turn back into Delight again at some point?
But seriously, folks
I'm fixating on a lot of seemingly random details because I think they'll prove important later. This issue sets off the entire plotline of the remaining Sandman series, and you have to believe that nothing is accidental, whether tangentially, whether referentially, or whether by absence (what happened to the other sibling?) Dream may be going to rectify a past mistake, but the past is another country, and in this case, it's Hell.
See you on the next issue!