Re-Enter Sandman: A Game of You

I wish A Game of You was a couple of issues longer. And while as much as I want to stop saying “Neil Gaiman doesn’t know how to end these story arcs properly” well, there’s much of that here too. At only six issues, A Game of You brings up a lot of ideas without fully developing them. I still like this storyline but I always want more from it than what we got.

I like the idea of bringing Barbie back from The Doll’s House and turning her from a yuppie to a New York City hipster. It actually works better than it should. However, Barbie isn’t particularly well-developed as a character — certainly, she’s sweet and accepting but that’s basically all we know about her.

Cover of The Sandman: A Game of You 30th anniversary edition

I do appreciate the collection of characters surrounding Barbie — lesbian couple Hazel and Foxglove, glamorous transgender woman Wanda and the mysterious, bookish Thessaly. At the very least, The Sandman always does interesting women well.

While I liked Barbie’s dream world a bit more than I used to, I also don’t think there’s quite enough time spent there. It’s not quite as developed as it could be for a fantasy world, which is partially why I think this story needed to be longer. Everything happens extremely quickly and I wanted more time for things to breathe.

Sure, Thessaly turning out to be an ancient witch is fun, but we barely get to know her character beyond “she looks mousy but she’s actually scary.” Foxglove and Hazel’s relationship is sweet, but they aren’t given too much to do but be here. And all three of these characters are just so Gaiman can throw in another reference to the whole maiden-mother-crone archetypes. Yes, this comes up a lot. We get it.

I also think there are too many coincidences that are written in — Foxglove is Judy’s ex-girlfriend who was the best friend of Rose Walker who also lived with Barbie. I used to think that was fun, but it genuinely has no real impact on the story. There’s no reason for all these people to be connected to each other.

I like Wanda and I think she was well-intentioned. Her inclusion here is fairly progressive given these issues were coming out in 1991-1992. However, through modern eyes, parts of this feel like no one here had really ever met a transgender woman in person before. She’s not a caricature, no, but much like all the other characters here, I wish we’d gotten to know her better before her inevitable death (and yeah, that does come across as “not great” now). I think Barbie’s vindication of her life at her funeral is a good one, though, but I still think Wanda deserved better.

Shawn McManus does a fine enough job on the art for most of these issues, but I do wish either Colleen Doran or Bryan Talbot had drawn the whole thing (Colleen Doran was allowed to re-ink her issue before it was republished in recent editions and her art does look much better). Ideally, of course, I would’ve loved for Doran to draw all the NYC/real world stuff and Talbot draw the dream/fantasy portions but no one asked me.

The vague letdown of the identity of the Cuckoo and long-winded discussions of girls’ stories vs. boys’ stories is another one of those cases where Gaiman can’t quite find a way to complete this story. I was not expecting a bit MCU-style third act battle but I do wish it all had led to a bit more than what we got. the conclusion isn’t quite “and then they all woke up” but it’s not far off. I don’t think what Gaiman is saying here is particularly wrong but it’s not necessarily insightful.

It’s interesting how little Dream actually appears in this storyline. As much as he’s more or less the title character of the book, The Sandman isn’t really about him but is instead about everything that gets pulled in around him.

A Game of You tends to be overlooked and it’s definitely not the flagship storyline of The Sandman but its quiet pleasures do balance its flaws. A lot of here could be much better but I still like what is here.