the Little Red Reviewer

GNN – Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman

Posted on: November 1, 2010

Welcome to Graphic Novel November!  A month of graphic novels, manga, and other illustrated fun! Check the main Graphic Novels / Manga page for the full list of reviews and other fun stuff.

The first installation in Graphic Novel November is the opening volume of a series many of you are familiar with: Neil Gaiman’s  The Sandman.

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If I had to name the best thing that’s ever happened to comics, it would have to be Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series.  When I first got into graphic novels a number of years ago, at first I was very intimidated. Who are all these characters populating all these shared universes? How far back would I need to go to know who everyone was? All the library had was  superhero stuff, was that all there was? I had no idea where to start.  Luckily, I found Gaiman’s The Sandman series.  It does take place in a shared universe of sorts, and with just about zero graphic novel experience, I still knew who just about everyone was.  It was comforting. And the story was excellent.  

If you’re not so sure about comics, and not sure where to start, Gaiman’s The Sandman is a sure thing and a perfect place to start.  This review only covers the first volume.    

The early 1900’s, Roderick Burgess and his group of cultists decide the time is ripe to cheat Death. They will capture death, imprison death, perhaps even torture and destroy death, until they get what they want – immortality. The stage is set, the incantations spoken, the blood spilt. But it is not Death they capture, it is Dream. If an imprisoned Death means a world without dying, without losing the people you love, what would a world without Dream look like?

At first the world isn’t much different. A few people fall into comas, and don’t wake. Dream’s tools, his dreamstone and his pouch of sand are abused, his helm stolen. These things were not meant for mortal use. But Morpheus, the Dreamlord, is immortal, he has time and patience in spades. He waits for someone to open his prison. Seventy years later, someone does. A weakened and angry Dreamlord scours the world, seeking his pouch, his ruby dreamstone, and his helm.

Part quest, part introduction to a universe populated by  familiar characters, The Sandman brought comics into the mainstream. Populated by tormented characters, these stories take place after the golden age of superheroes, after the age of obvious black hats and white hats. The Sandman is not just a graphic novel,  it is an anthem to the love of storytelling and  mythology. This is a song you already know, it’s just been set to new music. Every reader will recognize some characters in The Sandman, characters from stories and myths you grew up with, and some of you, you comic afficianados, will recognize everyone.

Dream has been imprisoned seventy years, and the world has changed. His castle has become desolate, ancient, lonely. His helm is in the hands of a demon in hell, which is now a triumvirate. Humans have been using his dream sand as a drug, much to their demise, and his ruby dreamstone, the object into which he has poured much of his power, has fallen into the hands of the mad Dr. Dee. 

Dee escapes Arkham Asylum, believing he can use the ruby to control the minds of others, to bring their dreams and nightmares into reality.  

As Dee cackles his mad laugh, nightmares do become reality, murder and mayhem run rampant in every city and on every street corner. Morpheus, endless one, timeless one, enters a battle of wits and time against a madman. This is not the first time he has done so, and it will not be the last.

There is an ending, a conclusion, of sorts. And just like there are no true good guys and no true bad guys, it isn’t a true happy or a true sad ending. Some things just are.
In the final chapter, we meet Dream’s older sister, Death.  Dream is just one of the endless ones, and when we meet the rest of his family, you’ll know who they all are as well.

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10 Responses to "GNN – Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman"

Even though Gaiman has moved onto much more acclaim, his early sandman is still his best in my mind. Just love dream country and dolls house.

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Nice review! The Sandman has long been a favorite of mine — and I’m looking forward to what comes next!

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I am going to try and read the rest of these, but I have to confess I came away fairly disappointed with the first one. I’m not sure what I was expecting to be honest, but I didn’t get it with this. I’ll get around to them rest of them, but Fables and Cerebus are going to come before them.

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The first time I read Sandman (and this was like 10 years ago), I remember reading the first volume and thinking “what’s all the fuss about?”. the first one is 100% set up, character introduction, figuring out how to get all these people to work together. For me, it didn’t really get awesome till Death shows up.

Fables – i can’t seem to find a copy of the first volume, but I did manage to find some kind of prequel? I’ll be reviewing that, and I’m still trying to find the first few Fables and the first Y the last man.

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Fables is good fun, a lot more light hearted than Sandman but in the same world really. They’re a real page turner as well, I always end up staying up late reading them.
You’re right about the first volume of Sandman, I enjoyed it, but it didn’t really get going until Dollshouse and Dream country.

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I was introduced to the Sandman series by a former boyfriend, and started off with the first book in the series. Gaiman’s introduction to the world of graphic novels prompted a tentative exploration of the art form (limited mainly to Hellblazer, The Books of Magic and the rest of the Sandman series). I think the art of A Doll’s House makes me think it the definitive version of Morpheus, though I did enjoy the differing illustration styles of Fables and Reflections.

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I love Neil Gaiman and have heard that Sandman is a wonderful g.n. series, but despite a few tries I’ve never been able to get into it. I think it’s because of the illustrations. I like cleaner illustrations (more on the traditional comic side I guess) and Sandman leans more toward rougher (albeit well done) illustrations.

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I’ll admit, the style of the artwork was the hardest hurdle for me to get past. I too, prefer a cleaner look. but once you get used to the style, getting into the story line is a peice of cake.

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I’ve read the first four Sandman volumes, enjoyed some more than others. I love the CONCEPT of them. This is usually my favorite part of Gaiman’s work–he has brilliant ideas. I don’t always enjoy the follow-through as much, and in the case of Sandman, well, as noted, I enjoyed some more than others. I think they’re just a little too dark and twisted for my taste. Dark is all right…but twisted is when I have to put it away before I start jumping at shadows.

I love Death as a character though! Strange though that sentence sounds… And the mythological references–and Shakespearean references–are great fun.

I read through the comments here, and have to also mention that Fables is amazing! :) I’ll have to watch for that review.

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you’re not the first person to have complaints about his follow-through (Stardust, anyone??), and dark and twisted definitely isn’t everyone’s cuppa tea.

Death is one of my most favorite characters ever, and i like my dark and twisted like I like my burnt rye pretlzels: really f’ing dark and twisted. Something else I love about the Sandman world is that it almost has that American Gods feeling to it – there is always something much older than whatever you happen to believe in.

fables prequel and Sandman volume 2 articles are on their way! probably this weekend, as I’ve got more manga scheduled for tomorrow.

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