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Dream of the Endless snuffs out the life of a foe in The Dreaming #20, DC Comics (2020). Image: Simon Spurrier, Bilquis Evely/DC Comics

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DC’s Sandman finale had a giant splash page moment that most people missed

See the pages as they would have appeared in physical copies

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Susana Polo is an entertainment editor at Polygon, specializing in pop culture and genre fare, with a primary expertise in comic books. Previously, she founded The Mary Sue.

This week, DC Comics released new issues for the first time in a month, including the finale of Si Spurrier and Bilquis Evely’s The Dreaming, the crown jewel of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman Universe imprint. The issue is a work of art in more ways than one — and one of those ways, ironically, is only available in a comic shop.

Due to the current pandemic crisis, many comics shops are closed at the moment, and even the industry’s biggest distributor is thoroughly off line. DC’s release of a handful of new comics on April 28 marks the beginning of a cautious and necessary reopening of the retail market. Shops that are open and running mail order or curbside pickup have brand new issues for readers to grab for the first time in weeks.

Still, it’s likely that many folks who read The Dreaming #20 this week read it digitally. And those folks missed out on a big surprise — one that only works with a physical comic. Fortunately, courtesy of DC Comics, we can reproduce that surprise right here.

Pour it into my eyeballs

The Dreaming #20 doubles up on one of the tricks of a printed comic with back to back vertical page spreads. That’s when you have a spread of panels across two pages, but laid out so that the reader must rotate the comic 90 degrees, for a massive image in portrait dimensions.

Put two of them next to each other, and that’s a lot of art. In the printed edition and the digital comic, the image is split across a page turn. But when you put it together, it’s a massive vertical scroll thatThe Dreaming uses to make a major reveal.

[Ed. note: The following contains mild spoilers for The Dreaming #20.]

The art depicts the long-awaited return of the King of Dreams, whose disappearance kicked off the plot of the whole Sandman Universe imprint two years ago, and who now takes the form of the Kabbalah’s Tree of Life. The page that came before the gatefold even primed the reader to turn the comic 90 degrees, by gradually rotating its art and lettering:

The Dreamlord’s resurrection plan comes into focus, in a series of panels that gradually rotate so that you’d have to turn the comic 90 degrees to the right to read them, in The Dreaming #20, DC Comics (2020). Image: Simon Spurrier, Bilquis Evely/DC Comics

And here’s your look at the next two spreads as one image, an absolutely stunning double vertical page spread from artist Bilquis Evely and colorist Mat Lopes (minus the comic’s lettering):

The unlettered double vertical gatefold pages of The Dreaming #20, DC Comics (2020). Image: Simon Spurrier, Bilquis Evely/DC Comics

When you’re actually reading The Dreaming, the constraints of screens and paper dimensions forces the image to be chopped up with a page turn, where it’s easy to miss the Tree for the forest, so to speak.

The double vertical gatefold pages of The Dreaming #20, chopped in two and displayed side by side, as they are in the digital edition of the comic. DC Comics (2020). Image: Simon Spurrier, Bilquis Evely/DC Comics

The Dreaming #20, originally slated for the first week of April, was one of the first comics to miss its release date after Diamond Comics’ April 1 shutdown. But with this issue, at least, it’s easy to see why DC would want to hold off on releasing it until the company was able to ship the physical issue.

When creators work this hard on a cool concept, you really want to get it to the reader as it was meant: An eyeball slapping wall of art.

The Dreaming will return next month with its 21st issue and the very exciting new creative team of G. Willow Wilson and Nick Robles.

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