This book features the following topics/genres – Graphic Novel/Fantasy/Horror
Publisher’s release date: Original date January – August 1989 and reprinted and recoloured 19 October 2019 (Amazon)
It’s not often that you feel like you are seeing something miraculous for the first time when you read something. That has certainly not been the case for me, and I’ve read quite a few graphic novels in my time. But there’s no other way to say this – Neil Gaiman has delivered me my new comic book obsession!
As this book is a volume of eight stories, it’s easier to split this review into segments for each issue and write a brief review with overall comments at the end.
Introduction – The Sandman comics focus on one main protagonist named ‘Dream’, otherwise known as ‘Morpheus’. Dream is one of several beings called ‘The Endless’. They are an immortal group of omnipotent beings. It’s safe to say that they represent their respective domains as gods over those domains. This means that they have special powers that focus on their domain. In Dream’s case, he can control people through their dreams and as such, many covet the power that the members of The Endless possess.
1 – Sleep of the Just
This comic introduces us to Mr Roderick Burgess, who appears to be a strange man that has connections to the occult. His primary task is to capture ‘Death’ using magic to have control over death itself. Unfortunately, the spell does not go to plan, and Mr Burgess and his cult capture ‘Dream’ instead of Death. Dream is then held captive for 70 years, which may not seem like a long time for an immortal being, but it’s almost a lifetime in human years. Nevertheless, Burgess doesn’t give up and continues to harass dream and mistreat him hoping to gain insight into how he can capture death. But dream keeps to himself and waits.
This comic is a great introduction to Gaiman’s universe, particularly for anyone who hasn’t read his previous works. The art is by Sam Kieth and Mike Dringenberg, and it’s exceptionally distinctive. The same art is completed for all issues right up to issue five ‘Passengers’. After that, the creative team changed to include Malcolm Jones III, with Sam Kieth leaving the project after the fifth issue.
The theme of this issue is purely focused on introducing Dream and one of his many enemies who are sometimes human. This might come as a surprise to some, but it’s one of the best parts of this issue because it pits Dream against humans for the first time. Without knowing too much about Dream, we see him at his most vulnerable and at the mercy of humans with no way of escaping the special trap Burgess and his cronies created for him.
Gaiman leaves you with so many questions and no way of escaping his grip in these comics – you’ll binge them before you even realise you’ve come to the end of the volume!
2 – Imperfect Hosts
Dream meets up with Cain and Abel, who are two entities that live in Dream’s domain. Having found his way back to The Dreaming, Dream is weak and is looking for three objects of power he seems to have lost. In this issue, Dream discovers his castle has been destroyed during the 70 years he was imprisoned. He has lost his objects of power and has no choice but to find who has taken them.
3 – Dream a Little Dream of Me
This situation leads Dream on an interesting journey where we see him interact with other famous characters from the DC universe, such as John Constantine in this issue. It’s a real treat to see these two universes coming together, and I can’t wait to see who else Dream will be interacting with within the volumes left to read.
With John Constantine’s help, Dream locates the first of his items, and we learn a little more about Dream’s “personality”, for lack of a better word. Dream shows a benevolence that seems so much like what I’d expect of him and unlike him at the same time. Such an intriguing character. John and Dream’s adventure is one of my favourites in this volume.
4 – A Hope in Hell
Another epic issue where Dream must now venture all the way down to hell to try and retrieve the next object of power, his helmet. Next to Dream’s bag of sand, this is probably the most obvious of Dream’s objects because it is also his sigil. Each member of The Endless has one, and Dream’s helmet is his. This particular issue puts Dream up against formidable foes, including Lucifer (the fallen angel) and several of his lieutenants.
It’s interesting to see how Lucifer and some of his demons are drawn by the artists. The depiction of Lucifer in these comics makes him look a lot like David Bowie. But now we know that with the TV adaptation of Gaiman’s work getting the “green light”, the actress that will be portraying Lucifer in the series is none other than “Game of Thrones” alum Gwendoline Christie. I think she is going to be superb in this role.
5 – Passengers
Passengers is one of the most disturbing issues in this volume, so if your intent is to read the entire volume cover-to-cover, please be aware of this. If I had to rate it, I’d give it an R18 rating. There is a lot of violence, some of it intensely disturbing, and the main antagonist (and Dream’s foe), John Dee, is creepy and disgusting. But, of course, this is all part of the ride. There’s no way you could read anything of Gaiman’s in the horror genre and not be shocked in some way. It’s one of the things I enjoy most about Gaiman’s writing; you never know what you’re going to get, but you just have to keep reading!
John Dee proves to be something of a pushover for Dream, but that’s not entirely surprising. What does surprise me is how Dream chooses to deal with the fallout of what John Dee has done to the world, which you’ll get to see in the next issue.
6 – 24 Hours
A continuation of the previous issue, John Dee concentrates his efforts using the last of Dream’s items (the ruby dreamstone) to wreak havoc upon the world. This issue shows John Dee at his absolute worst, and again, be aware this is R rated content and not for the squeamish.
7 – Sound and Fury
Things really heat up in this issue, with Dream finally confronting John Dee and the two of them going head-to-head. John Dee is an extremely disturbed human being but still human. And without Dream’s dreamstone, he’s really nothing more than a very sick person that needs special care and attention. And I think this is how Dream looks upon him in the end – almost like he pities John Dee’s situation and doesn’t want to hurt him in any way – even after everything he has done to the world. Of course, Dream is not happy about what he’s done, but he doesn’t want to harm John Dee even though he could.
And of course, with the dreamstone back in Dream’s possession, he now has all the objects of power he needs to reposition himself as ruler of The Dreaming once more.
There is also a notable difference in the art with the previous artist Sam Kieth leaving the comic and being replaced by Malcolm Jones III. In this issue, you begin to see a lot more of Dream’s face than in previous issues. And even though it’s subtle, you can notice the difference in some of the background imagery in the panels.
8 – The Sound of Her Wings
My second favourite issue of this volume. We finally meet another member of Dream’s extended family in “Death”, who is a curious and funny “goth-looking” teenager. At least, that is how she is represented. Death appears close to Dream, and they do have very similar appearances. But their jobs as “gods” over their realms are extremely different. And we get to see Death’s power and how she interacts with humans on earth. She also takes Dream along for the ride on a few of her visits.
If you recall, in the first issue, Death was the god that Roderick Burgess was initially trying to summon and trap in his magical cell, but he ended up with Dream instead. It’s interesting because of what Dream says to the sorcerers when he speaks, which leads me to believe that Death may look appealing and even appear non-threatening, but she is not to be trifled with.
It’s so intriguing to see two gods working together and blending in on earth like normal people. I cannot wait to start the next volume, which I’ll be reviewing here also.
For a first-time horror-related graphic novel, this work is unprecedented in its execution and delivery. It’s a story for the ages, and the character of Dream has certainly come a long way since the first graphic novel was released. The best part about it is that while there have been different variations of Dream and Gaiman’s universe, with Dream being “reborn” several times as new characters, the mystique and charm of the character has never waned. It’s simply superb. With the recent confirmation that Netflix has bought the rights to produce and create the TV version of The Sandman, we will wait with bated breath for Dream to steal our dreams once more.
Animated book cover by me. Like what you see? Hire me to animate your book cover today!
Book Cover Art – The art contained in the original comics written by Neil Gaiman is beautifully distinct. There is a definite “atmosphere” or “feeling” created by the images, which look more like a collage of different elements relating to the comic. This cover is vibrant, which is not typical of the artwork inside the comics, but it does have the same “weirdness” about it, which suits the comics well. With that concept in mind, I wanted to add something to the feeling already present by creating a face with swirling eyes and a swirling whirlpool in the hand. The zoom effect adds that one other special element to accentuate the cover.