Story by: Neil Gaiman
Written by: Dan Watters, Kat Howard, Nalo Hopkinson, Simon Spurrier
Art by: Sebastian Fiumara, Max Fiumara, Tom Fowler, Domonike Stanton, Bilquis Evely
Colored by: Mat Lopes
Cover by: Jae Lee
Published by: DC Comics/Vertigo Comics
It’s been almost two decades since I first read the original Sandman series, and even then, I read it in disorderly batches as I borrowed random trade paperbacks from others, picked up back issues on the cheap, or glanced over the shoulders of dedicated fans. However, the series made a huge impact on me, as it did to many readers, and I always wanted to explore the series correctly, as it was meant to be read. It seemed to have so much more weight than many of the books on the shelves and stayed with me long after most of the other stories, comics or otherwise. I have always loved comic books, but have to admit that it didn’t take me too long to grow weary of cookie cutter superhero tales, even though I collected them for a long time, so the supernatural universe of The Sandman was a very welcome change and renewed my interest in the medium.
The magic and mystery of The Sandman was unparalleled in its day, and even though this revolutionary comic has had plenty of books that count it as an influence since its inception, it will always remain famous for turning the industry on its head in a big way. Thus, it should not come as a surprise to anyone that future storylines from the world would continuously seep from panels, both on paper and in video. After all, the other big comics never end…and that’s where The Sandman has them all beat. Rather than telling and retelling the same origin stories over and over again using the same templates, this world is ripe for various storylines and characters to be featured at different times and portrayed by different writers and artists.
Which is exactly what this book does. The Sandman Universe is an introduction to four new ongoing books coming out of this weird wonderland, and as such, it does a fine job setting up the fresh storylines. If you’ve never read The Sandman before, it might not make as much of an impression on you as longtime fans of the series, but it is still a compelling read. My advice to readers unfamiliar with any previous publications would be to just let yourself get lost in the grand storytelling without worrying about what you’ve missed. Just take a breath and immerse yourself in the enchantment.
It might sound difficult, but it’s really not. This book is breathtaking to look at; all of the contributing artists are just exploding with talent. The characters are established enough to understand them and the text is easy enough to follow, even if some of the transitions between scenes could be a little smoother. Just remember that you’re in a mystical plane of existence and you’ll be fine. Oh, and when you’re finished with this, go searching for the original books. You won’t regret it.
For readers who couldn’t put the previous books down, welcome back. I hope you enjoy this new one-shot launch as much as I did.
Once upon a time, there was an immortal who guarded the dreams of mortals, a being who existed on another plane of existence called the Dreaming. Over the course of his adventures, he found friends, family and followers who added to his journey. Then one day he passed on his mantle. Sandman Universe is the beginning of what happens next.
The Dreaming is broken. Things are falling through the crack. And Dream is missing. It’s up to Matthew the Raven to find Dream and ask him to return to the Dreaming to help them fix it. As he travels through the Dreaming and the mortal realms he encounters a variety of colorful beings including Tim Hunter, gods of stories, and Lucifer himself. However there’s just one problem- Dream doesn’t want to be found. In fact, he may have quit.
Neil Gaiman is joined by a gaggle of fantastic creators- Si Spurrier, Nalo Hopkinson, Kat Howard, Dan Watters, Bilquis Evely, Domo Stanton, Tom Fowler, Max Fiumara, Sebastian Fiumara and Mat Lopes- in the rebirth of his most famous world. Together they weave a foundation for the world of the titles to come, as well as conflict for the many leads within.
This issue is an incredible dichotomy. On one hand, this is not at all new reader friendly. The story dives right in and if you don’t know anything about the universe of Sandman, you’re going to be a bit lost. The mythology is dense, and there are elements and call-backs that will be confusing to new readers.
On the flip side, the story is just so mesmerizing and beautiful that in the end, everything I said in the last paragraph didn’t end up mattering to me at all. As much as I love the amazing creator-owned books that have come from Image, Vertigo and others the last decade, nothing has really captured the surreal beauty of the golden age of Vertigo. Here, the creative team accomplishes just that, and they do it effortlessly.
In an anthology title like this, I try to point out favorites and highlights. Quite honestly, I can’t do that here. The Dreaming story is surreal and fantastic (in the genre sense, though also in the quality sense). The Tim Hunter short is a great set up for the Books of Magic, while separating it from any comparisons to Harry Potter quickly and effectively. Lucifer’s scene is haunting and disturbing. And the gods of story are a captivating presence.
On top of it all, it’s seamless. Though artist changes are noticeable, they’re not distracting and stylistically fit together. The writers meld together even better, with no single distinct voice dominating the others- instead complimenting and blending with the others.
This probably wasn’t the best introduction to the Sandman Universe as a whole, but for the line to come? Sign me up!
Overall: 8.5 out of 10
Review by Tony Thornley