Given the generally static nature of this issue, this post may be more of a series of observations than a deeper analysis. We've finally reached the point in the story where I dont quite remember what happens next, so it's very exciting to read into the little hints Gaiman sprinkles through the tale.
So we begin as Dream hears a variety of appeals from characters fictional and mythical, all longing for custody of Hell (though Why is not entirely clear to me as yet).
On the Art
Has anyone else noticed that Dream's castle looks different in every issue? Where previously it sat upon a craggy cliff, this time it sits on an island, complete with water and sand.
I wonder if that accounts for the new dinosaur guard? In addition to the gryphon and unicorn who normally guard the gates, there appears to be a stegosaurus/brontosaurus hybrid. Does anyone know what mythical beast that might be?
Also, did a different artist take over from page 18, only to return on pate 20?
On Tricksters and Gods
Why is everyone standing so far apart from the Norsemen? Certainly Thor is a rapey bastard, but they are all given a wide berth (maybe all that blood makes them smell horrible).
Is it significant that Loki appears to be the only one who does not enjoy the fruits of Dream's hospitality? He says he is "content to watch," which is never the greatest thing to hear from a renowned trickster. Of course the Angels are also there to supposedly "watch," which I somehow doubt is the only reason they're in town.
Come to think of it, I wonder if Gaiman is intentionally focussing on the tricksters and not the rest of the applicants? If you pay attention to the background figures throughout this issue, there are thousands more people present who we haven't met. One is clearly Merlin, of Arthurian legend (and the Disney interpretation, hilariously). We see Merkin engage in trickery within the confines of this episode! And of course the fairies are tricksters. And just to put a point on it, the background story involves Cain and Abel performing a magic trick (sorry, illusion). And we all know cats are tricksters.
I was thrilled to figure out on my own that the sleepwalking servant must surely be Dream borrowing someone who's asleep.
I find it interesting how Dream becomes more and more disrespectful as the interviews go on.
Man, it's been so long since I've read this that I actually don't remember who he gives hell to, if indeed he gives hell away at all!