Let me start by saying that I’m way behind on reading Sandman by Neil Gaiman. I’ve read many comics over the years, seen a lot of different styles and stories. My main focus had always been super heroes. I really enjoyed Batman and Spiderman as a kid and as I grew older I was more into Spiderman and the Marvel titles and strayed from the Batman titles. I had read many independent comics over the years such as Stray Bullets, Cerebus, Strangers in Paradise, and the like, but mainly I read superhero comics.
I had read about the Sandman in very early comics so I had assumed when I saw the title with its weird covers that it would be that superhero and had no idea what it was really about. It was from the DC Vertigo realm and I was far behind on the story. From what I’d heard it was basically one long story and I’d need to pick up the back issues to get caught up. My wallet wouldn’t afford that.
That brings us to the world of digital. I now have a copy of all the sandman titles. I’m going to read through them all and post my thoughts. I have read all (I think) of Neil Gaiman’s books and have thoroughly enjoyed them all. I’m trying to go in without any stars in my eyes expecting to love every word on every page.
I’m not sure how often I will be putting this out, but as I finish an issue I’ll write up a review while it’s still fresh in my mind and get it out there.
Let’s jump in, shall we?
Issue 1 is a long comic. The Sleep of the Just is the first story. Knowing Neil’s storying telling style, I was expecting to get the lay of the land before I got any story. I got a lot more than that. I got 70 years worth of story in one comic. A 40+ page comic, but a lot of story to begin with.
We start out in the 1920s with a group that’s trying to summon and trap death so they can achieve immortality. They don’t get death, but instead get someone they weren’t expecting. They strip their captive and lock him away in an unbroken circle and demand things from him that he cannot deliver. He stays stoically in his cell waiting for a time when someone will make a mistake. Over the years people falling into dreamless sleep. It starts out as a mild case of sleeping too much but grows to where people don’t wake except for once or twice a decade. These people are committed to mental institutes, one has a child and sleeps through the entire ordeal. All suffer from this sleep and have no dreams.
The son of the man who summoned the captive grows old and begins to demand the same things his father did. Once he is old and in a wheelchair he makes a mistake and rolls one wheel across the unbroken circle. This is where the story really starts. We now know that the captive is Lord of Dreams. We don’t know his real name, we just know that he controls dreams and nightmares. This is what’s causing people to have dreamless sleep. It’s what’s causing the sleeping sickness. Yet he won’t speak to his captors which only makes them more infuriated.
Over the years the items taken from the Lord of Dreams are bought and sold. I’m sure this will become important in books to come.
The Lord of Dreams escapes and takes his revenge on the son. Rather than curse the man with nightmares he instead curses the man to never allow him to sleep again. His life becomes a living nightmare and he is committed. Dreams then escapes back to his own realm, weakened and nearly powerless.
I can say that this comic was nothing I was expecting. Let’s start with the artwork. Are you can see by the cover of this comic, it’s not your standard comic. There’s no action pose by our hero. There’s no flash or splash. It’s a rather disturbing cover. From what I can tell this continues on in the series.
Inside the comic we don’t find clean lines and standard panels. Instead we find a scenes that flow from one to the next and don’t follow the normal panel to panel I’ve grown to know from a comic. It took me a bit to get used to this, I’ll admit, but it adds to the dreamlike quality of the book. Rather than have a linear flow it feels different as you read it. The art also is reminiscent of the early horror comics like Weird Tales. Things aren’t hard edged in this book at all. The people and faces aren’t handsome or perfect. There are moles, scars, deformities. Even though it’s drawn this way, it’s still very disturbing.
I like that.
Beyond the art, the story, to me, felt a little weak to start with. I know we’re getting a lot of background and we’re still laying things out. I get that. The 41 pages really relied on the images to show us a lot of the story. We get some back story, but we’re still in a realm where I’m not sure what’s going to come up next. Obviously there is a long way to go in the series and I’m anxious to find out what happens next.
Until Next Time!