All Arkham Asylum security guards must be horrible at their jobs. If any of them were in the least bit competent, they’d have noticed the inmate, John Dee, escaping from his cell. Instead of watching the security cameras, they’re busy watching Alfred Hitchcock. For those who have never heard Funeral March for a Marionette (better known as the Alfred Hitchcock theme), here it is.
On his way out of the asylum, John Dee stops to converse with Dr. Jonathan Crane (a.k.a. Scarecrow), who has “hung” himself as a April Fool’s Day prank. Dee explains his plan to Crane, telling him that he’s going to get his “mat-er-i-op-ti-kon” (Dream’s ruby) back and that he’ll make the entire world hail him as king. Crane admits that it sounds like a good plan, but that Dee will be back.
“We always come back here,” he says. “It’s so scary outside.”
Dee escapes, and shortly after hijacks a car, telling the woman inside that he’s going to get his ruby back (completely giving up on trying to pronounce Materioptikon, a word that he himself created), and delivering the classic line, “Trust me. I’m a doctor.”
A transition into the dreams of Scott Free (a.k.a. Miracleman), who dreams of a series of torture devices designed by his “Granny” to test his cunning and reflexes. He wakes up from the nightmare with Dream sitting on the end of his bed. Dream asks for Scott’s help in finding his ruby, and we are lead to believe that Scott will discover his true name in return.It’s really no surprise that Gaiman would incorporate Miracleman into The Sandman, considering Miracleman was one of the first comics projects he worked on (as stated in Bring Me a Dream). The real surprise comes when Gaiman incorporates yet another classic DC Comics character into the story, J’onn J’onzz the Martian Manhunter, who hails Dream as Lord L’Zoril. When questioned about the ruby, J’onn states that it’s probably in storage in a town called Mayhew, which is exactly where John Dee is headed.
Oddly enough, it’s the evil mastermind who has one of the greatest quotes in Preludes and Nocturnes. While driving to the storage site, John Dee asks his driver, Rosemary, if she knows what dreams are made of. Rosemary dismisses the question, claiming that dreams are “just dreams,” but Dee denies it.
“People think dreams aren’t real because they aren’t made of matter, of particles. Dreams are real. But they are made of viewpoints, of images, of memories and puns and lost hopes…”
He then explains that Dream’s ruby has the power to change dreams into matter; to manipulate the minds of others to make their wildest dreams or worst nightmares become reality. He also states that he has altered it so that only he can use it, which is why when Dream enters the storage facility and attempts to draw power from the ruby, the ruby rips what little power he had left from him instead. This allows John Dee to find the ruby with more power than it ever had before, making him a more formidable opponent.
The last few panels leave us with Dee entering a local diner and asking for a cup of coffee
while he waits, as he puts it, for “the end of the world.” We can already tell that Dee having possession of the ruby is not a good thing, but we won’t find out just what power the ruby has over our world until the next issue, 24 Hours.
One thing I love about Passengers is that Gaiman has taken the mediocre Justice League villain John Dee and turned him into the type of villain that readers can actually respect, rather than the campy “anti-gravity discs” and “will-deadener beam” of Doctor Destiny. He’s created a completely new character that fits in with the dark world of The Sandman. On the other hand, I almost felt as if the Martian Manhunter’s role in the story could have been played by any member of the Justice League and yield the same results. Chances are it was just another one of DC’s attempts to get Justice League fans interested in The Sandman.
In the end, Passengers is the harbinger of what Sandman will become. It’s stated in the comic itself when Dream attempts to draw power from the ruby: Things have changed, it’s all uphill from here, you can’t go back. However, this is also a sign that the story of the Sandman is about to “come of age” and become more original.
Next: 24 Hours in 24 Pages