The Sandman: Preludes & Nocturnes by Neil Gaiman
I originally read the Sandman comics when they first came out in the late eighties and I’ve never stopped loving them. Over the years I’ve owned and lost the entire series several times over, so when I managed to get my hands on the collected graphic novels for the umpteenth time I decided to start rereading them from the beginning.
This first collection introduces the Sandman and gives us a glimpse into the myriad worlds he travels through. It’s an interesting tale, all the more so when you consider that when this first came out most comic books were about costumed heroes and villains. Sandman and his Endless relatives were a breath of fresh air and I’m sure fuelled a number of goth fantasies at the time.
The narrative begins with the titular Sandman (aka Dream of the Endless, or Morpheus) being summoned through mystical means. Only, the magicians who summoned him weren’t looking for Dream, but for his sibling, Death. However, not wanting to look a gift horse in the mouth they divest the captured dream lord of his objects of power and lock him away in a magic bottle for the next seventy years, hoping to unlock the secret of his powers.
By the end of the first chapter, Morpheus is free of his captors, and spends the rest of the book hunting down and reclaiming his three items of power, calling on the help of a number of recognisable DC characters along the way including John Constantine, Lucifer Morningstar, and the Martian ManhunterJ’onn J’onnz. Without giving too much away, suffice to say that old Sandman has all his powers and gizmos back by the end of the book, leaving the door wide open for further adventures, after a brief epilogue involving his older sister Death, of course.
Most of the artwork in this first volume is provided by Sam Keith and Mike Dringenberg, with Malcolm Jones III stepping in for a few of the later issues, and as a result the graphics are simply gorgeous. From the blatant caricatures of the villains in chapter one, to the disturbing forms of the denizens of Hell in chapter four, the character work is superlative, and especially so when it comes to Dream himself and the perky goth version of Death. This book truly is a work of art.
If you’ve never read the Sandman books then this is definitely the place to start, especially if you have a gothic soul or just like your comics a little off the beaten track.