Sandman: Overture

Tuesday, November 10, 2015


Sandman: Overture
Neil Gaiman, J. H. Williams III, Dave Stewart, 2015

New Release! I received a copy of this book from NetGalley for the purpose of review.

Premise: At the start of Preludes and Nocturnes, Dream is imprisoned. What could have brought the Lord of the Dreaming so low as to be trapped by a minor occultist? The answers are held in this prequel volume.

Wow.

Wow, wow, wow, wow. This should have been terrible. It’s a prequel to one of the seminal graphic novel series of the modern era, written almost 20 years after the release of the last issue. The last stories Gaiman penned in this world (Endless Nights, in 2003) I found mediocre at best. This should have been a cash-grab with maybe a few redeeming qualities.

But it was brilliant. It was brilliant both in that it was smart and complicated, and that it was hard to look too closely, the light might hurt your eyes.

All of the Endless have wonderful moments here, and Desire particularly gets some intriguing and poignant time to shine. But the story is about Dream, his origins, the depth and breadth of his power at its height, and the complexity inherent in being the lord of ALL dreaming.

The art is gorgeous and perfectly matched to the tone here. Williams’ style is always detailed and lush, but I haven’t always enjoyed his work, because I don’t always think it’s suited to, say, Batman. But it’s perfect here.

If there’s any nitpick I have about this volume, it’s that I want to loop immediately back to the beginning of Sandman and re-read it with this story in mind. However, I cringe thinking about the clash in style and technique between how great this book is, and how rough around the edges and not-quite-found-its-tone-yet Preludes and Nocturnes is. (In my opinion, that book is hard to make it through unless enough people have convinced you: no, really, it gets much better and is never this gross again.)

The extra material in the deluxe collected volume is generous (50 pages!) and varied: not just a cover gallery, but interviews with the whole creative team, notes from Gaiman to the publisher, Williams’ sketches of the Endless from before this project even started, and more. There’s even an interesting piece about how the unique lettering was created for the whole Sandman series.

No question in my mind: if you loved Sandman, you’ll love this.

5 Stars - An Amazing Book

Buy on Amazon

1 comment:

ZaK Kauffman said...

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this. I was expecting to wallow in quality nostalgia of old Vertigo Neil Gaiman, and while that was definitely part of the experience it actually felt really new to me. And not in a 'boy, the artist lost that special spark from back in the day' kind of way. It was more 'this feels like the same work that I used to love, but with an extra decade's pop culture influence'.

What it most felt like to me was like Neil Gaiman watched a crapload of Doctor Who, and applied that experience to Sandman. The fanciful adventure of an uptight but brilliant cosmic British fella in a nice suit explaining the wonders of the universe to brave sidekicks, which was always a part of Sandman but this time was the main show. And I think the end of issue 1 was a direct homage (Morpheus saying "Wait...but What?" upon meeting the Council of Sandmen).

But like you said, the main feature is not the subject matter but just the quality level. It felt like an engaged and excited writer, rather than the echo of old greatness.

Really nice surprise.

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