Writer: James Tynion IV
Artist: Maria Lovet
Letterer: Simon Bowland
Text Page Designer: AndWorld Design
Reviewed by Steve J. Ray
Following and fitting in seamlessly from, through, and between Nightmare Country #6, Dead Boy Detectives, and Nightmare Country: The Glass House #3, The Sandman Universe: Thessaly Special #1 gives us a look at DC Comics’ mistress of witchcraft’s history and dark power. It also finally shines a light on her involvement – involuntary as it might be – in the ongoing investigation into the horrific death of Madison Flynn.
First, let me say straight off the bat, that Thessaly is a horrible person. However, she’s a fascinating, deep, and extremely complex character. I’ve been following her story since her first appearance in issue #32 of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman (1991). She’s gone from being a terrifying, bigoted, and ultra-powerful witch in “A Game Of You“, to Dream’s lover, magical avenger, and force of nature in her more recent appearances.
James Tynion has a real grasp on the character and is finally showing us her past. By doing so, he lets us see some of the moments that made and forged her. The brilliant part is that all of this fits in with what we’ve already seen of her over the decades, honoring what her creator has already told us about her while adding more flesh to the bones of her history. I must also laud the way James creates new side characters that I immediately fall in love with. They’re all so flawed, human, and real!
Maria Lovet is a wonderful artist who gives readers a Thessaly as great as the one drawn by her co-creator, the inimitable Colleen Doran. The art in The Sandman Universe: Thessaly Special #1 is gorgeous; simple, clean, atmospheric, and, dare I say it, magical. This great issue works both as a follow-up to The Sandman Universe: Nightmare Country #6 and as a chapter in the ongoing saga of Madison Flynn.
Yes, the writing, art, and Simon Bowland’s lettering in this special are (as always) first-rate, but I think I need to name guest creators AndWorld Design (AKA Deron Bennett) as the MVP of the issue.
I love experimental comics, and DC has been spoiling us recently with issues that tell a story as one continuous 20-page image, an entire story seen from one character’s POV, and the incomparable DC Black Label horror series, The Nice House On The Lake (also written by James Tynion). This saga contained entire pages dedicated to text and art that were so seamlessly intertwined, that the reader was left wondering whether the artist, colorist, or letterer was responsible for the final result. With this issue, I finally have my answer.
The Sandman Universe: Thessaly Special #1 also features several text pages, but they’re so lovely to look at that you’d be completely justified in calling them works of art. Some look like ancient scrolls, others like pages from a storybook, and yet others like a movie script (the scroll pages are featured below).
AndWorld didn’t just letter these pages. No. Just like the way they did in TNHOTL they imagined and executed the designs, created the textures, and provided the color. As usual, I’ve been left in awe. I cannot understand people who don’t see comics as true literature or art, because, for me, they’re the perfect marriage of both.
I have nothing to say.
The Sandman Universe: Thessaly Special #1 is virtually flawless. James Tyion has crafted a story that scares us by asking what it is that people really want, and the design, art, and lettering of the book are of outstanding quality.
Seeing Thessaly’s past, getting glimpses of Dream (and his other famous lover), plus a dark and ominous hint at one of his younger siblings’ deeper and continuous meddling in his affairs, all made this aging Sandman fan very happy indeed.
I cannot wait for The Sandman Universe: Nightmare Country: The Glass House #4!
Images Courtesy of DC Entertainment