Review: Sandman, Vol. 1 by Neil Gaiman

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Sandman 1Sandman, Vol. 1: Preludes and Nocturnes by Neil Gaiman (writer), Sam Kieth, Mike Dringenberg, and Malcolm Jones III (artists). (DC Comics, 1995)

 

Blurb: New York Times best-selling author Neil Gaiman’s transcendent series SANDMAN is often hailed as the definitive Vertigo title and one of the finest achievements in graphic storytelling. Gaiman created an unforgettable tale of the forces that exist beyond life and death by weaving ancient mythology, folklore and fairy tales with his own distinct narrative vision.

In PRELUDES & NOCTURNES, an occultist attempting to capture Death to bargain for eternal life traps her younger brother Dream instead. After his 70 year imprisonment and eventual escape, Dream, also known as Morpheus, goes on a quest for his lost objects of power. On his arduous journey Morpheus encounters Lucifer, John Constantine, and an all-powerful madman.

This book also includes the story “The Sound of Her Wings,” which introduces us to the pragmatic and perky goth girl Death.

 

I haven’t read many graphic novels, so I wasn’t sure if I would like this one. I’m not a visual reader, to put it mildly, and I was concerned that having so much emphasis on the visual aspect of the story would cause problems for me or that I’d miss half the story because I skipped over the images. As it turned out, I shouldn’t have worried. The drawings and the story fit so well that I read this at about the same pace I would a “regular” novel.

Over the years, many friends have recommended this series to me. I was a bit leery because, as mentioned above, I haven’t read many graphic novels and I’m unfamiliar with DC Comics lore. However, again, that turned out not to be too important. I was able to follow along just fine because Gaiman has done such a good job of world-building in this volume.

That being said, the sheer volume of backstory and world-building in this collection (issues 1-8 of the 75-issue series) weighed it down a bit. This was clearly the first entry in a much longer story, and there are some missteps along the way. The story itself is simple: A wizard, attempting to imprison Death and achieve immortality, instead locks up Dream. When Dream finally escapes, he must locate and reclaim his three symbols of power. (In a strange way this kind of reminded me of a WoW character quest.) Although the story is simple, it’s very well told. There are flashes of humor that keep it from being too dark. I also enjoyed watching Dream cope with his “lost” time—much has changed, which allows Gaiman to weave together the ancient and the modern. I especially enjoyed the last story, “The Sound of Her Wings,” in which Dream meets up with his sister Death. She is a fantastic character and I’m hoping to see more of her.

The artwork was good, although apparently it has since been re-colored. I’d kind of like to see the new version, because mine was full of lurid blues and purples that were a bit much at times. But again, I’ve not got anything to compare this book to in that regard, not having read many graphic novels. I thought the actual issue covers were just gorgeous, sort of blended abstract images, but I don’t think I could read page after page of that kind of illustration. The stark spikiness of Dream and Death suited them very well.

Will definitely read on.

 

My rating: 3 stars

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