[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Writers: Neil Gaiman, Dan Watters, Kat Howard, Nalo Hopkinson, Simon Spurrier
Artists: Sebastian Fiumara, Max Fiurama, Tom Fowler, Dominike Stanton, Bilquis Evely
Colors: Mat Lopes
Letters: Simon Bowland
Reviewed By: Derek McNeil
From the mind of New York Times #1 bestselling author Neil Gaiman comes a new world filled with dreams, nightmares and wonderful characters living together in a shared universe for a new story unlike anything we’ve ever seen before.
The Sandman is back after a long absence. Unfortunately, it isn’t returning as a series, but it is bringing back a number of defunct Vertigo series under the banner: The Sandman Universe. This special serves as an introduction to the four series that are going to be released under that banner.
The Dreaming was a spinoff of The Sandman focusing on the supporting cast of the original Sandman series and it appears that this revival features all the familiar characters: Lucien, Matthew the Raven, Cain and Abel, and we are also introduced to a mysterious new character called Dora.
The Books of Magic seems to be a reboot of Tim Hunter’s story rather than a continuation. In the story, Tim seems to be unaware of the world of magic. He awakens from a nightmare to find that he is late for school, but when he arrives he finds that his regular teacher has been replaced by a woman calling herself Doctor Rose. Unless I am mistaken, it seems that this is Doctor Occult/Rose Psychic, who have most recently been portrayed as having a merged existence, where only one can appear at a time. She certainly looks like Rose Psychic and “Doctor Rose” is a combination of their names.
So, if Doctor Occult is present, will the rest of the “Trenchcoat Brigade” be far behind? If you’re not familiar with the term, it’s the nickname that John Constantine gave to himself, the Phantom Stranger, Mister E, and Doctor Occult, the original group that introduced Tim to the world of magic in the original Books of Magic miniseries.
Lucifer was another spinoff of the original Sandman title, where Lucifer abdicated his rule of Hell. Now Lucifer has discovered that he has a son. Lucifer is performing a ritual which involves killing a number of ravens, but the purpose of this ritual isn’t made clear. He also talks of retrieving something that he never had to give to this son, and having to enlisting the aid of those who would see him dead or trapped.
The final introduction is to an entirely new series called the House of Whispers, which is the dwelling of Erzulie, who states that the stories of the lives of all women and girls are hers to care for. This makes it clear that the House of Whispers will offer a rare female perspective on the stories it tells. Plus Erzulie appears as a black woman and the first story she explores is that of three black girls, so it appears that the African-American perspective will also be a key component of the series. This is a bold new approach for a comic, and hopefully it will prove as successful as the more familiar titles in the Sandman Universe line.
Also, I can’t wait to see how Cain and Abel react to the appearance of a third house in the Dreaming. Will the proprietors of the House of Mystery and the House of Secrets accept the addition of the House of Whispers?
The introduction to The Dreaming is used as a bookend to link the introductions to the other titles together. The Dreaming is starting to unravel, and it appears that Daniel/Dream has abandoned his realm. Matthew is sent to the waking world to find him. Matthew serves as the link between stories, as he witness each story while searching for Daniel.
It has been said that The Sandman Universe will be separate from the main DC Universe, but can it be totally divorced from the DCU? The continuity of the Dreaming implies that much, if not all of the continuity continues from the original Sandman and The Dreaming series – although The Books of Magic seems to be a complete reboot.
And remember that the original series was set on the edges of the pre-Flashpoint DCU. When it debuted, it was as a regular DCU title – Vertigo didn’t exist yet. Early issues featured Mister Miracle, Martian Manhunter, and the Justice League villain Doctor Destiny. After being incorporated into Vertigo, a connection to the main DC was maintained. Daniel himself is the son of two members of Infinity Inc. And among the attendees of Morpheus’ wake was Superman, Batman, Martian Manhunter, and even Darkseid.
All this, plus Daniel’s recent appearance in Dark Nights: Metal that the new Sandman Universe books are still set in the DCU, even if the lines are being kept separate by DC. Plus the changes in the main DC continuity (New 52, Superman Reborn, etc.) serves to explain how The Dreaming can pick up from its old continuity, but have The Books of Magic be a complete reboot.
I was delighted to see that one of the variant covers was by Dave McKean. It wouldn’t be a proper Sandman book without a cover by the artist who provided all phenomenal covers for every issue of the original Sandman series.
Speaking of variant covers, there were seven variant covers. Really, DC? 8 different cover of a 5 dollar book ($6.50 here in Canada). You’re really taking advantage of completists that want the whole set. I know that this is a huge event, but four covers would be plenty. Any more is going overboard. This makes me long for the days when the only variants were that the newsstand books had a UPC code and the Direct Market books didn’t.
But for those that don’t mind DC octuple-dipping or those that can content themselves with a single cover, the book itself is great. All the favourite characters back with Neil Gaiman himself overseeing the line. Each title is bursting with potential and the each story is given a running start here. If you can’t or don’t want to get the entire line, this issue also serves as a great tool for you to decide which titles you want to get. But don’t count on it being an easy decision, because they all look great.