The Sandman: Preludes and Nocturnes by Neil Gaiman – A Book Review

I somehow missed the boat on this series that began in 1988.  It ran through 1997, and some believe it is the greatest comic series to have ever existed.  I finally-FINALLY-decided I needed to check it out.

Gaiman himself has admitted in the past that Preludes and Nocturnes was a bit of a rough start to a series that would later garner much acclimation, and he was correct.  Don’t misunderstand though-I still thoroughly enjoyed it.  If it is considered a rough start, then I’m greatly looking forward to the more “polished” volumes!

The character of Sandman has some sort of intangible appeal that I can’t put my finger on.  For those who don’t know much about him, he is the God of Sleep, an entity who often takes the form of a tall, thin, nearly translucent-skinned man with black eyes and black, unruly hair.  However, I absolutely understand what I like about his story potential.  In the first volume alone, his story unfolds over decades, he visits Hell, he walks the Earth, he rules in his dream kingdom, and he even spends some time with his cheery, charismatic sister Death.  The only thing about this first volume that struck me as almost too awkward was when Sandman interacted with the then-present incarnation of the Justice League.  This was before the Vertigo imprint was born and Sandman was given his own universe to play in.

Sam Kieth was the original artist, but he left after only a few issues.  Some people love his work, others don’t.  Personally, I enjoyed Mike Dringenberg’s incarnation of Sandman much better.  Also, keep in mind these stories were produced in the late eighties, so the coloring isn’t quite up to today’s technological standards. 

However, it’s obvious this is a very smart series and I can’t wait to read the entire set.  I only wish I hadn’t waited so long to give it a chance.

The Sandman: The Kindly Ones by Neil Gaiman – A Book Review

The Kindly Ones encompasses the direct consequences of the earlier volume, Brief Lives.  In Brief Lives, Lord Morpheus (Dream) changes, for better or for worse.  The actions that lead to such change must have ramifications, and The Kindly Ones details such repercussions.

In The Kindly Ones, Lyta Hall, a character who has made sporadic appearances throughout The Sandman series, is convinced that Dream has stolen her baby, Daniel.  She goes to the women known as the Kindly Ones for vengeance, and even she couldn’t predict the outcome.

Making use of virtually every character in The Sandman mythos, The Kindly Ones is a truly epic tale that brings us to a point in Dream’s existence that would seem, based upon Brief Lives, inevitable.  At times The Kindly Ones gets a bit muddled and verbose, but in the end, it was all worth it.    

I’ve had the privilege of reading The Sandman series in completion and for the first time in the last few months, and The Kindly Ones is testament to the genius of Neil Gaiman.  I don’t know if it was on purpose or a happy accident, but The Kindly Ones makes use of virtually every storyline preceding it and concludes such a mammoth story … it’s nearly unimaginable someone could dream up such a story.

My only suggestion: skip the introduction and read it after you finish The Kindly Ones.  It does reveal a fairly major plot point, which, upon retrospect seems obvious, but even so, I would have liked to have avoided the introduction’s cataclysmic revelation.

The Sandman: Season of Mists by Neil Gaiman – A Book Review

I’ve heard much about The Sandman series for many years, and so last summer I finally decided to experience it for myself.  The first volume was adequate, but it didn’t “wow” me as much as I expected.  Probably because, by this point in time, Gaiman’s concepts had been copied and recopied so many times by so many other writers that the original held little distinction.

 

I took solace in the fact that Volume III of the series was to be the one that set The Sandman beyond anything else in the comic book medium that came before or after.  Sadly—for me—it didn’t electrify.  Good?  Certainly.  Great?  No.

 

So, believing the opinions of several friends can’t be wrong, I still pressed on.  Volume IV, Season of Mists, proved to be the one.  This is the volume that completely and utterly “wowed” me.  From the beginning to the end, this was a tightly woven story packing emotional, philosophical, intellectual, and conceptual punches that did not fail to capture both my imagination and respect.  The character of Morpheus is visually interesting, but it was not until this volume that he began to fascinate me as a well-rounded character.

 

The premise is simple in Season of Mists.  Morpheus realizes he long ago made a mistake for which he must atone.  It is how he deals with coming to this decision and the ramifications of going about executing it that astonished me.  Gaiman’s imagination is limitless in Season of Mists, pulling from established myths and legends as well as creating his own.

 

The art, like all of the volumes, is rather hit or miss.  Luckily, the image of Morpheus is so striking and the stories so good that the art is easy to overlook.

 

Finally, I wouldn’t consider myself a fan of Harlan Ellison by any stretch of the imagination, but his introduction to this volume is delightful and is alone worth the price of the entire book.