- I have always been solitary, but here on the nightward shores of dream, loneliness washes over me in waves, lapping and pulling at my spirit.
- — Dream
Synopsis for "A Hope in Hell"
At the gates, Dream meets resistance from a guard named Squatterbloat. Dream warns him that he is considered a guest and that Lucifer would be very upset if Squatterbloat refused him. Fortunately, the demon Etrigan appears, and offers to take Dream to see Lucifer. He takes Dream through the Wood of Suicides, and then past a prison of souls entombed to pity. Dream has an encounter with a woman he knew long ago - Nada. Nada begs his forgiveness for a prior betrayal, but Morpheus refuses. He tells her, "It has been ten thousand years, Nada. Yes. I still love you. But I have not yet forgiven you".
They eventually arrive at Dis, the Hellcity where the palace of Lucifer Morningstar stands. At the top of his tower, Lucifer greets him. Dream is surprised to learn that Hell is no longer a monarchy, but is now a triumvirate. After the battle between Heaven and the Great Darkness, a civil war sparked in Hell which led to a change in leadership. Lucifer now rules in equal partnership with fellow demons Azazel and Beelzebub.
The triumvirate convenes before Morpheus, and he informs them that a demon stole his helm of office many years ago, and he has come to Hell to reclaim it. They ask which demon is responsible for the offence, but Morpheus doesn't know his name. Mockingly, Lucifer decides to summon all of the demons of Hell together and asks Morpheus to point out which one has his helmet.
Using his magic sand, Dream eventually finds the one in possession of the artifact - Choronzon. Choronzon claims to have acquired the tool fairly, and has broken none of Hell's laws. If Morpheus wants it back, then he must challenge him for it. Morpheus agrees to the challenge, unsure that he has the strength to win.
As the challenged, Choronzon decides upon the rules and setting of their duel. He chooses a contest of wits, in which all of reality is their battlefield. The game involves taking on the identity of an item or animal and using the properties of that item to trump the opponent. After several turns, Dream realizes that taking a defensive approach might serve him better. He manipulates Choronzon into choosing a universe-destroying force, which he believes will leave Dream with no recourse. In response, Dream explains that he will be hope - the only thing that can remain after all is destroyed. With that, he wins the challenge.
Taking back his property, Morpheus thanks the kings of Hell and prepares to leave. Lucifer warns, however, that dreams have no power in Hell, and he has no intention of letting the Dream Lord leave. Morpheus counters that the power of dreams is very strong in Hell. Addressing the entire demon congregation he says, "What power would Hell have if those here imprisoned were not able to dream of Heaven?" With that, the sea of demons parts, and Morpheus is allowed to leave. Lucifer vows that one day he will destroy the Dream King.
Appearing in "A Hope in Hell"
- This issue is reprinted in Essential Vertigo: Sandman #4, Sandman: Preludes and Nocturnes and Sandman: Absolute Edition, Volume 1.
- Dream addresses a tortured prisoner of Hell named Nada who begs his forgiveness. Nada's crime, and the reason why Dream won't forgive her are revealed in greater detail in Sandman #9.
- First actual appearance of Choronzon. He made a behind-the-scenes appearance in Sandman #1 and a behind-the-scenes flashback appearance in issue #2.
- This issue reveals that Dream's name in African culture is Kai'ckul.
- Hell became a triumvirate as a result of a civil war which was sparked by the appearance of the Great Darkness. The events that led to this war culminated in Swamp Thing (Volume 2) #50
- The final form Chorozon takes on in his contest of wits with Dream is the Anti-Life Equation, a formula for total control of sentient beings sought after by Darkseid in Jack Kirby's Fourth World stories. This issue interprets the equation as representing the end of all existence.
- The demons Agony and Ecstacy make cameo appearances in this issue. They were last seen in Hellblazer #12, where they were first introduced.