Sandman: Overture 1

I walked into my comics shop last week, and was greeted by a sign with a digital countdown. There was less than a week until the first issue of Sandman: Overture would appear. I’d previously read the books in collected form, and I decided to try reading this one month-by-month, the way people read the original books. When I first read Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series of “graphic novels”, I was already a fan of comic books. I’d read the classics of the field, but Sandman was my first venture into long-form, non-superhero fiction. For those who haven’t read it, the series is a sprawling tragedy that deals with dreams, inner lives, and the rich inner landscape that lives in each of us. There are so many themes and sub-arcs described within Neil Gaiman’s masterpiece that to describe any of them is to do a disservice to the rest. Neil Gaiman’s previous effort to return to the world of Morpheus, Endless Nights, had its moments, but it felt a little too modern and experimental for my tastes. Sandman stories should feel old, like something plucked out of a dusty book.

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.


3 thoughts on “Sandman: Overture 1

  1. Funny enough, I’m actually reading the TPB of the original series. I always heard that Sandman was amazing–but holy crap amazing is a freaking understatement. I imagine that Sandman rivals Watchman in terms of how dense each comic is.

    1. I think that Sandman is Neil Gaiman’s best work, hands down, although American Gods and The Ocean at the End of the Lane come close. It’s also that rare thing: A work that’s accessible, immediately appealing, and one that benefits from re-reading over time.

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