Neil Gaiman’s genre-shattering series is back in this miniseries, celebrating the epic’s debut 25 years ago. Gaiman hasn’t missed a beat… in fact, he may have gotten better! While the original was always “heady” and “literate”, the opening sequence in this book made my head swim and it didn’t let up very much from there. It was appropriately “dream-like” and for long-time fans, the book very quickly pulls in favorites like Destiny, Death (gorgeously re-imagined as a Victorian girl, versus her punky goth former look) and The Corinthian.
Oh, by the way, the book opens with the death of the main character. (Well, kind of.)
The book just presses on in a mind-blowing manner. J.H. Williams’ always genre-defying in his artwork, outdoes even his ‘Batwoman’ run. Like in his former title, his artwork constantly changes style, including in single panels and lush double-page spreads. Heck, the four-page spread toward the end of the book is breath-taking.
I haven’t read a book that pushes the envelope like this in a while and I’ve read some good books lately. But this one is almost challenging. It drifts from poetic prose, to slightly more typical comic stylings and like the artwork, sometimes meshes them both on the same page. It probably shouldn’t have been the first book I read this week. It took me a little while to get used to the rhythm of the book, which was added to, ironically, by the schizophrenic art.
I switched to digital a few months ago. The main drawback there is this book is loaded with double-page spreads, which more beautifully show off the art. But it’s not ALL double-page spreads so I had to keep turning my iPad every few pages. On the flip side, I heard that the print version is littered with ads for other Vertigo titles, many of which interrupted the flow of the scenes. So choose your battle there. (Also, many readers have experienced ‘The Sandman’ after the boom in trade paperbacks, and may be trade-waiting this series in order to read the entire story in one sitting without any ads.) Perhaps this isn’t critique worthy. It doesn’t have anything to do with the story and art, but these are issues that distract from the reading experience in both cases.
If you’ve never read ‘The Sandman’… well, what’s wrong with you?… but I honestly don’t know if this is the place to start. Hardly ANY character is explained. I don’t believe Death is even referred to by name and her function to “take” souls is vague.
I… want to give this a five. The writing is incredibly intelligent and poetic. The art is possibly the best I’ve ever seen. It may have just been a teenie, tiny bit too intelligent (if that’s even a thing) and challenging. I think once the entire thing is collected, that might go away. Who knows what the rest of the series holds? The fact that the first issue may also not be new-reader friendly also makes me take a step back on my rating. Just barely.
THE SANDMAN OVERTURE #1
Written by Neil Gaiman
Art and Cover by J.H. Williams III