GNN – Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman
Posted November 1, 2010on:
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.