Upon Completion Of Reading Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman Series

In early December, I decided to reread Neil Gaiman’s entire The Sandman series.  It marked the first time I reread the series since my initial read of the collected editions nearly ten years ago.

There isn’t much for me to say that hasn’t already been said, so I’ll keep it brief.  The series, as a whole, is literature at its finest.  The problem with comic books, for the most part, is that they are serialized.  They expect to run perpetually, and they often change hands as new writers and artists come in.  Superman, for example, has been published monthly since 1938.  It is hard to do anything too substantial with a character expected to appear continuously.

The Sandman, however, does not suffer from such a dilemma, which is what makes the series so enjoyable.  Though it got off to a inconsistent start due to the fact that it tried to exist within the same universe as Superman, The Sandman soon broke away into a world largely its own (thanks to its own publishing imprint).  As a result, Gaiman was free to create worlds, mythologies, and, as a consequence, quality stories.  Best of all? Gaiman alone wrote the series, and Gaiman clearly worked to an endgame.

That’s right.  The Sandman has a clear beginning, middle, and end, and Gaiman executed each stage thoughtfully and with purpose.  Lord Dream, or Morpheus, is an eternal character that impossibly changes throughout the series, and, as a result, evolves into something completely unexpected.  The series is character driven—not plot driven.  Gaiman had something to say, to do, with his main character, and when it happened, the story ended.  Simple as that.

Literature.

The scope of this series will mesmerize you.  The characters will leap off the page and into your heart.  The intricate plots that seem unrelated only to finally connect near the end will captivate you.  The dialogue will give you chills.  Honestly, nothing quite compares to The Sandman, and nothing ever will.

Sometimes horrific, sometimes hilarious, always enlightening, The Sandman will always live on in your imagination once you’ve experienced it.  Whether you think you enjoy comic books or not, if you like a good story, I implore you to give this finite series a read.

The Sandman: Overture by Neil Gaiman and J.H. Williams – A Book Review

Though I have enjoyed comic books pretty much since the age of three (I am currently 36), I have not bought a single-issue comic book since 2006.  I largely wait for the collections’ debut, and, because these collections often come out a few months after the end of a storyline, must work diligently to avoid spoilers.

I could not risk such a thing with The Sandman: Overture.  I adore everything about Neil Gaiman’s epic Sandman series, and when I heard he planned to revisit the mythos, I knew I had to be right there in the thick of things.  Furthermore, J.H. Williams is an artist in the truest since of the word, from Promethea to Batwoman, his work is both beautiful and frenetic.  Only Gaiman and Williams could bring me back to the single-issue format.

And I am glad they did.  Though I am out of practice with reading such a small installment of the story compared to the collections I typically read, I am no less contented with the first issue of The Sandman: Overture.

Gaiman says that Overture is meant to answer some questions about those first few issues of the original series, and, quite honestly, I cannot wait to see what tribulations Morpheus must endure before his eventual capture.

Overture is beautiful to behold.  Gaiman includes several of our favorite characters along with Dream, a mystery develops, surrealism abounds, and it concludes in such a manner that waiting for the next issue will be a maddening, exuberant plight.

I suspected that waiting for the collected edition of this series would be a mistake, and Gaiman and Williams proved me right.  They make the single-issue experience satisfying again.  I am thrilled to read it as it unfolds.

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: Brief Lives – A Book Review

I thought Season of Mists was my favorite The Sandman volume until I read Brief Lives

Brief Lives absolutely has it all-drama, action, comedy, romance, and philosophical ponderings.  It focuses upon Morpheus rather directly-unlike other volumes where sometimes he exists within the stories only peripherally-as he helps his sister Delirium track down their brother known as Destruction. 

Destruction is part of The Endless.  The other members of The Endless are his brothers and sisters Destiny, Death, Dream (Morpheus), Desire, Despair, and Delirium.  He long ago abandoned his post and family, choosing instead to exist on his own terms.  Addle-brained Delirium unusually makes up her mind and decides she wants to reunite with her favorite brother.  She is very surprised when she manages to enlist the aid of her brooding brother, Dream, especially after all her other brothers and sisters refuse to help her.

Dream accompanies Delirium on quite a journey as created by Neil Gaiman who makes brilliant use of legend and mythology, both preexisting and self-manufactured.  They finally find Destruction, but things don’t go exactly as expected and incredible possibilities are revealed.

I love this volume so much because something happens to Dream that hasn’t really occurred in the previous volumes-he changes.  While always dynamic in dialogue and appearance, Dream was not a character who seemed to evolve.  I enjoyed Lord Morpheus just as he was, but now that Gaiman introduces a changing Dream, a Morpheus who suddenly empathizes with mortals and family members, he becomes all the more fascinating.

Furthermore, the afterward by Peter Straub was absolutely riveting.  Brief Lives was enthralling on its own, but Straub’s afterward analyzing the volume makes it, and the intricacies of Gaiman’s artistry, all the more impressive.

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.