Happily, the first issue of Sandman: Overture very much feels like the Sandman of old. The art by J.H. Williams III is multilayered almost to the point of being baroque, but without seeming gratuitously ornate or difficult to follow. While Williams doesn’t attain the disturbing, nearly mystical beauty he did in Alan Moore’s Promethea series, he doesn’t have to. Sandman has always been about portraying the personal, small side of grand events. His style of taking a backseat to the action serves the story well: The images here are beautiful and decorative where they have to be, stark and ornate where the pictures need to focus the reader on Neil Gaiman’s beautiful words.
The story revolves around what the Sandman was doing before he was imprisoned all the way back in issue one of the original series, and it involves a planet with three alien species, one of them a race of dreaming plants. Subplots include the Corinthian, an unsettling dream figure with a habit of eating human eyes; and Dream’s siblings Destiny and Death, in a plot that looks to be leading up to events of the main series.
The story is cosmic, the prelude to a tragedy writ large. In typical Gaiman fashion, these plots are anything but straightforward or simple, and it’s obvious that we’ve only seen the earliest wisps of plot threads in this volume. A large-scale epic can be hard for the reader to identify with. It’s far too early to have bought into the story or characters of Sandman: Overture other than what we already know about them. Nevertheless, this setup shows promise. Neil Gaiman’s characters have always been excellently drawn, his tales unforgettable. I have high hopes that both will live up to the promise of this gorgeous book, and I’m very much looking forward to issue 2.