Book Review

The Sandman Vol 1: Preludes & Nocturnes by Neil Gaiman, Illustrated by Sam Keith & Mike Dringenberg

There is an endless love in my soul for Neil Gaiman. He is everything I would love to be as a writer. Even still, I have never once picked up a copy of The Sandman – until now. What I love about Gaiman is his ability to make a dark story seem light. There is always an element of darkness, but never fear and I appreciate that this is a feeling unique to his stories. Vol 1 of The Sandman: Preludes and Nocturnes did not differ from this.

The Sandman gets off to a bit of an interesting start where we see the titular Sandman get summoned by a cult of humans who quickly imprison him for close to a decade. Now in that time we see panels of what his capture does to the world at large and also to some specific individuals. Along with his person, three special artifacts that The Sandman carries are also taken. It is revealed later that these objects contain the source of his powers.

Right off the bat this is clearly similar to a superhero origin story, except you are given the impression that The Sandman, while not evil, isn’t necessarily a “good” guy either. However, since everyone you encounter through him is even worse you can’t help but resolve to root for him in his quest of escape then ultimately tracking down his lost/stolen powerful artifacts.

GOOD POINT: I liked the diverse cast of characters. There were quite a few, all with their own different personalities which isn’t an easy thing to accomplish. The downside is that unless you have at least an intermediate knowledge of comics (specifically DC) you won’t know some of these characters and their quick appearances with no context or back story could leave an unknowing reader jarred.

I’m not a comic book savant by any means, but I am aware enough of certain comics that the references didn’t completely fly past me. I know who Batman is, I am aware of Constantine, etc. In addition to these there are the many other characters that are strictly in the realm of The Sandman’s sub-universe. There were many and some got more context and background information than others, but after all of that it was kind of a let down to not have these specific characters play any meaningful role in the main arch of the story. At least not in this first novel.

A quick Google search will tell you that there are ten graphic novels in all, totaling to 75 individual comic book issues. I would hope that in all of those somewhere these characters that are heavily introduced in Preludes and Nocturnes come back to have a satisfying closure to their individual stories. Though it would be like Gaiman to maybe not do what the reader expects; another aspect I love about his writing.

GOOD POINT: The illustrations were perfect. I don’t mean it was the best artwork I’ve ever seen, what I mean is it was perfect for the story it was in. The panels are very dark both in color and theme (duh!) and it really felt like the illustrators were in tune with the vision that Gaiman had for his story. That’s the trick with comics, as compelling as the story may be it always has that secondary requirement of having a good artist bring forth the vision in the words. I believe that was accomplished here.

It was pointed out to me that the illustrator for each volume changed and so the art changes from volume to volume, which if the story didn’t convince me to continue reading, this note alone would give my curiosities enough of a buzz to keep going with the series.

If you can’t readily tell, I quite enjoyed the story. Even the ending got a certain amount of closure that was just satisfying enough to make any short term reader happy. We are left with the knowledge that it was actually The Sandman’s sister the cult was after, for she is non-other than Death herself. I like to think that the familial relation is what caused the mishap, but perhaps there is more at play here. I think this sets up the second novel perfectly and I wouldn’t be surprised if I am writing a review of that very novel soon.

BAD POINT: Arkham Asylum

4 Stars Out Of 5

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