Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman is truly one of the masterworks of the comic book industry. With so many people singing its praises, the title’s seven year run is one of the best things to come out of the “Dark Age of Comics”, and one of the titles that put the Vertigo imprint on the map. The Sandman is one of those comics with infinite potential that could run forever and always have fresh material, as it deals with the Lord of Dreams and his affairs with imagination, humanity, the supernatural, the metaphysical, myths, stories, and dreams. Literally everything is fair game for the series to cover, but Neil Gaiman told the story he wanted over the course of 75 issues, not including a bunch of short spin-offs, one-shots, and graphic novels featuring characters from the series, written by Gaiman and others. But now—seventeen years after Gaiman’s original series—The Sandman is back for only one year. Every other month, a new chapter will be released in this new prequel series, showing what the Lord of Dreams was doing before the events of Sandman #1. Ladies and gentlemen, it gives me great pleasure to tell you that today, October 30th 2013; The Sandman: Overture #1 is out. Dream is back for one last hurrah, to tell the story that was imagined but never told 24 years ago. Is it too late for us to hear it? Well…
This story starts out strong, doing one of the things The Sandman has always done best: World building. This story takes place in many locations, including an alien planet, London, and the Dreaming (the realm where Dream comes from). The funny thing about comic books is that while we get things like acrobatic ghosts and men with flaming heads that can transmute objects into different forms of matter, the idea of looking at the dreams of a carnivorous plant is still fresh, interesting, and exciting. The book has very little actual plot, with most of the issue focused on the characters having a sense of foreboding and the feeling that something strange is going on, yet it feels like so much more happens, despite this fact. This is a mark of great writing; to write so much yet say so little and still make the reader care.
Sounds so wrong, reads so right.
In addition, multiple familiar characters from The Sandman appear in this book. Fans of the series will be delighted to see the return of characters such as Destiny, the Corinthian, and Merv Pumpkinhead. All in all, it’s a real treat for long-time readers, and while there are a couple moments that could use a little more elaboration for the new readers, Gaiman does a good job explaining who these characters are and what they do through short bits of dialogue that work in context and don’t feel forced. The only real big flaw is that a few characters are never officially named. You still get a feel for what kind of people they are, even if you don’t know their names.
You really only need to spend about ten seconds with Merv to understand everything you need to know about the guy.
Honestly, that’s all there is to say about the story so far. It’s a standard first issue set-up. But, like Forever Evil #1, it’s a really good first issue that engages the reader and makes you care about what’s going on because the events themselves are so interesting. But the art… Oh, this art:
This is truly the stuff of dreams.
Readers of Batwoman have—for a long time now—been singing the praises of J.H. Williams III’s art, and it’s easy to see why: the artwork in this book in absolutely phenomenal. There are multiple artistic styles and varying aesthetic choices here all in this one book with each scene having its own distinct look. At the same time, it’s intentional, all done by the same author, and blends together to flow really well. Most impressive of all is that there are a few instances where the multiple clashing art styles even occupy the very same panel, and it still looks perfect.
Williams’ drawings combined with the amazingly beautiful colors of Dave Stewart are just a treat to look at. And it’s especially impressive that there is no wasted space in this book. Every corner of every page has something going on, whether it’s a decorative border, or odd-shaped panels. Even the one bit of blank space in the whole book serves a purpose of showing us the transition from reality to dream. Every bit of art in this book serves a purpose and is well thought out. Without question, this is the best-looking comic book to hit the stands for quite a while.
Two missing names aren’t enough to detract from the book. Really, nothing detracts from this book.
I had high hopes going into this, and they were surpassed. This is going to be a fantastic prequel to The Sandman, and may even get a few new readers interested in the original series. There’s really no experience like reading The Sandman, and I got the same feeling of fascination reading this as I did when I read the first issue of the original series a couple of years ago.
The Sandman: Overture #1 is available now from physical and digital retailers for $4.99 USD.