An occultist attempting to capture Death to bargain for eternal life traps her younger brother, Dream, instead. After his 70 year imprisonment and eventual escape, Dream, a.k.a. The Sandman, goes on a quest for his lost objects of power. Author Neil Gaiman creates an unforgettable tale of the forces that exist beyond life and death by weaving ancient mythology, folklore and fairy tales with his own distinct narrative vision.
Such a great beginning to what will become a truly magnificent series. Although the art (or the original coloration - Rachel's house looks like it's been caked in mud!) isn't perfect and some of the secondary characters are too much made to fit into the DC universe, what is evident from the first frame is the huge potential - a seemingly infinite creative spirit permeates this universe from the start. Am I exaggerating? Possibly. Am I biased? Probably. The Sandman and its weaving in and out of myth and fairytale made me fall in love with it at first sight some twenty years ago. Am I wrong, though? No, I really don't think I am.
The overall storyarc is obviously what is most notable - Gaiman's commentary on stories and storytelling is after all what this is all about. His using the Dream King to illustrate the divine, the demonic, and all the rest of human experience is quite ingenious - we all have dreams and we all understand their power. As Dream himself says, "What power would HELL have if those here imprisoned were not able to DREAM of HEAVEN?" What's more important to me, though, is the apparent levity with which it's all handled. Dream's face when he sees what has happened to The Dreamtime in his decades of absence is priceless, Cain's utter glee at trying to off his brother is simply hilarious, and John Constantine's lackadaisical reaction to anything completely out of the ordinary must bring a smile even to the coldest of hearts.
This playfulness when dealing with something serious is, to me, what makes this so great. Scare the heck out of me with nightmares come to life and then throw in a few silly jokes, like Dream beginning his recollections of what led to his imprisonment with "It was a DARK and STORMY NIGHTMARE," or Doctor Destiny identifying Dream in a book called "Paginarum Fulvarum" (i.e. "Yellow Pages"), and the picture is complete.
Still, it’s already obvious that that sort of big scope is to be. Preludes and Nocturnes takes us to hell, to the realm of Dreaming, to WW1, to upper-class Britain and small town America, and still manages to make this feel like an organic story. Parts of it work better than others (Incorporation of JLA a tad strained. Role of Cain and Abel a tad strained), but there are some true gems in here: the gruesome small-scale horror of “24 hours” and the introduction of the lovely Death in “The sound of her wings” most notably.
The artwork leaves much to be desired, as has been pointed out, and isn’t helped by the clumsy coloring either. It’s sad really: one can’t help but ponder how cool that two-page spread of the demon gathering in Hell COULD have looked (and speaking of which: Beelzebub as a pair of bug eyes with legs? I mean come on!!!). Half the time the expressions on people’s faces are all but impossible to make out.
Many of my favorite characters in this series aren’t even introduced yet. This is a good intro (this time too), but I’m already eager to move on.
Originally published in the late 1980's in single magazine format, the eight 'episodes' contained in this volume set the stage for what is to come - or at least I think it does - and helps to display the creative story telling mind of Gaiman. Sadly, it also shows the growing pains of a project when you bring together a team that has never worked together before and task them with producing a monthly serial.
This is not so much a review, it is more a rambling of my thoughts. While some of the literary allusions and pop culture inclusions worked for me, others didn't - Thank you, Neil, but I really didn't need the song "Sweet Dreams" running through my head again. I still don't get the purpose of the inclusion of the whole Cain and Abel angle in Imperfect Hosts but I did like how the three witches - sorry Fates.... I mean witches... whatever - were presented.
Dream a Little Dream of Me is my favorite episode in this volume. I like the gritty, sarcastic 'take the world head on' John Constantine character. I also liked how we start to see behind the facade of Morpheus, the Sandman as we glimpse inside his more complex soul here. I also started to notice a somewhat cleaner presentation to the artwork.
I have mixed feelings about A Hope in Hell. I loved the story - absolutely loved it - and completely hated the artwork. This was one of the times where they either just got too experimental with the whole idea or the team wasn't working as a team. Overall effect dampened my enthusiasm for what could have been a perfect story.
Passengers was alright, but nothing to write home about. I found the whole Justice League angle somewhat cheesy and not well done, given the wealth of material they could have borrowed from. Again, back to the weird, experimental artwork that didn't work for me.
24 Hours was too much of a hard core horror for my tastes for me to really want to spend anymore time then I had to to read it. No stellar artwork to make me want to linger over it longer, either.
Sound and Fury was another example, after A Hope in Hell, that trades on a version of the classic theme, good versus evil. For the record, I seriously do not get the dude at the asylum - obviously one of the literary allusions that is lost on me.
The Sound of Her Wings is my second favorite episode in this volume. By this point, I am fascinated with Sandman and the human qualities that Gaiman has given this other than human being. The introduction of Death is well done and a good balance to the Sandman. The artwork is clean and 'uncluttered' compared to the other episodes. The story does feel like the epilogue Gaiman classifies it as and more philosophical in nature.
Overall, Gaiman has created a very interesting character to represent the 'good guy' in this battle and a story that cast a spell over me the farther I got into it. I am not sure if it is something that I will ever consider re-reading at some point in the future, but it is an experience worth undertaking.
IN THIS VOLUME
From the Endless: Dream | Death | cameo by Destiny
From Dreamtime / Supernatural: Lucien | Cain & Abel | Brute & Glob | Lucifer & Baalzebub | Hecateae (Three-In-One)
From DC: Constantine | Dr Destiny | Mr Miracle & Last Martian | cameo by Sandman (or someone deluded)
Gaiman and his editor acknowledge in separate introductions that the issues collected in Volume 1 are a qualified success. Gaiman's achievement here is his integration of mythopoeic ideas within contemporary settings, and his willingness to mine all manner of genre settings and storylines. There is a lot of material here and the reader's sorting rules are uncertain. Individual stories are entertaining but seem unrelated and/or confusing. Perhaps the thematic obscurity lies more with the reader than with the story: upon re-reading (and after completing the next two volumes) the various threads and themes stand out in sharper relief, but these same pieces were not so evident on first reading.
By Volume 3, the storylines converge. Gaiman is examining myriad ways that dreams serve human health, balance, and integrity, both for individuals and the community. At this point in Volume 1, the stories eclipse the themes. Perhaps that's only natural.
"Sleep of the Just"
(Morpheus snared, then freed)
Gaiman name-drops Horvendile from Cream of the Jest; for readers unfamiliar with Cabell's story this suggests the invocation of a demon or god.
(concerning Morpheus's recovery)
"Dream a Little Dream of Me"
(concerning Morpheus's sand)
Here is hinted a third major plotline, picked up in Volumes 2 & 3: the non-sanctioned efforts of some denizens of Dreaming. The creature that was once Rachel's father threatens Constantine but is cowed when realising Morpheus accompanies him.
"A Hope in Hell"
(concerning Morpheus's helm)
"Sound and Fury"
(concerning Morpheus's ruby)
1 story split over 3 issues, and another DC makeover, this time featuring Dr D and his materioptikon. Dr D relies upon Morpheus's ruby, not so much inventing a new tool as warping Morpheus's.
"Sound of Her Wings"
(concerning Morpheus's role as one of the Endless)
This first book makes me want to read more, it's an excellent character, and does anyone else think he looks a bit like Neil Gaiman himself?
The general themes in this comic seemed to be that of perseverance and intrigue. I would use this book in one of my English classrooms simply because it is diverse reading. It is interesting and creepy enough to keep even the most inattentive student’s attention. Also, the two themes mentioned earlier are very good qualities to teach a classroom full of students, perseverance because the children need that trait, and intrigue, simply because it is entertaining.
I actually really liked reading this graphic novel. It was dark and interesting with characters that most of the real world are afraid of. The plot was gripping and the way that the graphics went along with the story was enjoyable. Also, the graphics were very detailed and colorful, so if one had any visual learners in a class, this would be ideal for them.
I've read this eight times now, and it still blows me straight out of the water. There's so much going on on so many different levels, and it can be read in several different ways. You want a simple quest tale? It's certainly that. Dream endures captivity, escapes, and travels through a series of stunning locations as he regains what is rightfully his. You want a horror story? Oooh boy, are you in the right place. Gaiman delivers a wide range of horror that is both shockingly graphic and deeply psychological. Or, how about a commentary on different kinds of storytelling? In his afterward, Gaiman states that he tried to make most of the stories conform to particular types. Literary buffs will enjoy evaluating the results.
And if you want something smart, disturbing, uplifting, deep, epic, personal, complex, witty and dark, you need to read this. Right now.
As good as it is, though, you'll want to make sure you have access to the remaining volumes in the series. Preludes and Nocturnes can be read as a stand-alone, but it's so much better when read as the first installment in a longer series. Gaiman uses this as a place to establish certain key things about Dream and his world. They don't stand out the first time through, but once you know what's coming you're sure to be impressed.
To be fair, I ought to mention that it does have a few failings. The art is good but somewhat dated; you can instantly peg this as a late 80's/early 90's creation, at least in the original editions. (I believe Absolute Sandman has been retouched and recoloured; this might make a difference). Gaiman's attempts to incorporate the wider DC universe aren't entirely successful; some of the stories are a little awkward, though I never found them too insiderish. (I'm more of a Marvel girl; most of my DC knowledge relates to Sandman, and I never had any trouble following what was happening). It takes Gaiman most of the volume to find his voice, also; it's not until the final story, "The Sound of Her Wings", that the book really clicks.
But despite all that, it's a solid read. I highly, highly recommend it. And when you're reading, just keep in mind that most people consider this mediocre in comparison to the rest of the series.
I give you a coin I made from a stone. I give you a song I stole from the dirt. I give you a knife from under the hills, and a stick that I stuck through a dead man’s eye. I give you a claw I ripped from a rat. I give you a name, and the name is lost. I give you blood from out of my vein, and a feather I pulled from an angel’s wing. I call you with names of my lord, of my lord. I summon with poison and summon with pain. I open the way and I open the gates.
How good’s that? It’s evocative, and it scans.
At this point in the comic’s life, it was still mostly horror. Particularly “24 Hours”. Generally when I am reading Preludes and Nocturnes, I start reading “24 Hours”, and I get to the part where the waitress is considering her philosophy of storytelling. She says that every story ends in death if you keep going long enough; and the trick is to know when to stop. I usually consider this to be Neil Gaiman’s way of telling me that he doesn’t mind if I skip “24 Hours”, so I do. This time, I was in a completist mood, and I read it. It is well unsettling. Feel free to skip it. I will tell you what happens: Everybody dies in nasty ways, and at the end Dream shows up in a bad mood.
However, “The Sound of Her Wings” – I say unoriginally – makes up for any flaws in the foregoing seven issues. Death is a delightful character, of whom we just never see enough. I like it when she throws bread at him and talks about Mary Poppins. Thanks to my wonderful sister Anna, I have this in a single issue, which I fetched down from my bookshelf and read. I love having single issues of the Sandman. Looking at the ones I have flashes me back to this little used comics & books shop on Portobello Market Road, which I visited almost every day of July 2005. I was living in Notting Hill that month, so it was close by. (On Pembridge Gardens, a street that was very easy to get to from the Notting Hill Tube Station, but it took me an hour and a half with two suitcases, because I made a wrong turn and every street within a ten-mile radius was called Pembridge something, and Londoners are crap at giving directions. All except for this one street-cleaner, and at the time I couldn’t understand anything he was saying, though in retrospect I realize that he was giving me perfect directions.) I wanted to buy all the issues because of the extreme beauty of Dave McKean’s covers. I spent so much money at that shop.
As for quotes, I loved this reference on death:
“Death is before me today:
Like the recovery of a sick man,
Like going forth into a garden after sickness.
Death is before me today:
Like the odor of myrrh,
Like sitting under a sail in a good wind.
Death is before me today:
Like the course of a stream;
Like the return of a man from the war-galley to his house.
Death is before me today:
Like the home that a man longs to see,
After years spent as a captive.”
- From "Dialogue of a Misanthrope with His Soul" (circa 2000 BC; Ancient Egypt)
I had, however, been told that The Sandman books read like a traditional story and since I love Neil Gaiman, I decided to give them a try.
Based on Preludes and Nocturnes, I've come to two conclusions. First, though they don't read quite like a novel, as some of the story is told through the pictures rather than narration, these particular books are easy to follow and read enough like a traditional book to keep my attention.
Second, these books are addicting. Every time I picked up Preludes and Nocturnes, I found it difficult to put down. I just wanted to keep reading and reading and reading and now that I've finished the book, I want to read the next one. I cannot wait until tomorrow when I get to pick up my copy of The Doll's House so I can read both that and Dream Country, which I already have. Unfortunately, the chances that those two books will occupy me until I can pick up book for are slim.
One complaint that I've heard a couple of times about The Sandman is that the DC-universe characters were awkward because when the book was started they weren't sure how it was going to fit into the DC Universe, and it ended up that they created a new label for it anyway. I suppose this may be true, but as my familiarity with DC superheroes is limited to a small percentage of the movies that have been made about them, I would be the first to admit that I'm not the right person to judge that.
For me, it was a little strange to have Batman referred to in the book as an actual person, but other than that I didn't see anything wrong with how they were portrayed.
The rest of the characters were vibrant and interesting, though definitely very different than what I'm used to reading. Just the concepts of some of the characters were vastly different from any that I had seen before. It was very refreshing and I was impressed by all the different personalities that came through as I was reading.
The only thing that I didn't really like about Preludes and Nocturnes is some of the art. Most of it, I really liked as I thought that it helped tell the story very well and added elements that wouldn't have been possible in a traditional novel. However, there were a few panels that I just didn’t like the art in. They were a bit too graphic and they weren’t depicting things that I wanted to see. They made reading that particular part uncomfortable for me.
That, however, is my only complaint about Preludes and Nocturnes. It's definitely a book that I'll be coming back to again and again in the years to come.
This is volume 1 of The Sandman comics, containing issues 1-8. It introduces the character of Morpheus, one of the Endless. He controls the Dream world. He is captured and is imprisoned for almost a century. The book was rather uneven, but the stories showed potential. My two favorites were "24 Hours" and "The Sound of Her Wings". In "24 Hours", Doctor Destiny, who has Dream's ruby, holds people hostage in a diner and uses its(the ruby's, not the diner's =]) power to mess with their minds until they all end up dead. It was an interesting concept and well-executed. "The Sound of Her Wings" is the last story in this volume and the best one, because Dream's sister Death makes her first appearance. I am partly saying this because of the irony, but it is true: Death just adds so much life into the story! Before I read that story, I thought: "I guess I'll read the next volume..." Now I am really looking forward to finding out more about The Sandman and the other characters.
Here, he plays for perhaps the first time at mixing mythology, spirituality, and strange real events into a story beyond the ken of other fairytale rewrites and new age mysticism. There is a sense here that the characters and story are still undeveloped in his mind, which provides the reader with some welcome ambiguity, as soon he will nail down the characters into something a bit too precise and not quite realistic enough.
Of course, this merely becomes his frame around which he tells stories from any place or era which more than make up for the lack of conflict in other parts. The final story in this collection is an exploration of the depths of human desire and control, which recalls to us the depravity of The Lord Of The Flies. It should be unsurprising to us that Sandman became a classic by shocking and questioning its readers, and it must sadden us that no more comics have won the World Fantasy Award since.
The art was mostly strong, the quality and direction fluctuated a little bit here and there but mostly it really worked and was easy to follow and understand.
While there was a lot of disturbing violence in this book there was not a lot of unnecessary gore and it rarely felt cheap, there were a few cases where I felt it drifted into the territory of sadism for it's own sake, to create shock vs. truly needing to be in the story but overall I feel it was mostly tastefully handled.
Overall a solid introduction to Dream and The Endless and the roles and influences they have on the mortal world they help over see.
"All Bette's stories have happy endings. That's because she knows where to stop. She's realised the real problem with stories - if keep them going long enough, they always end in death"
Gaiman is playing here and finding his style, trying out different ones, and introducing us to the world and some of the characters. It's a good and enjoyable read it with a promise of much to come. Gaiman is still interlocked with the DC universe and I find that it doesn't really work (I am not very familiar or interested). It's still a fun read and contains one of my favourite ever horror shorts "24 Hours" plus the touching, iconic "The Sound of Her Wings", a soft epilogue to the dramatic and scarier stories before.
To be honest, though, this is the spring board to the rest and you must start here. The Sandman collection is an epic tale that interweaves so many memorable characters lives, visits so many worlds, contains so many cool ideas, explores a myriad of myths and religions and looks at what its like to be human. It is one of my favourite things out there period and still feels fresh in a repeated reread. But if my gushing doesn't intrigue you, then know that is hard to state how much influence, how iconic and important this comic is and how much you miss if you haven't tried it.
So yes start here, see the promising beginnings and maybe, just maybe, try another. For this is a prelude to a truly great experience and deserves all of my praise.
Dream is the lord of his Dreamworld. Although one would think that he would be cruel and merciless, he is actually logical and kind in his own way.
A circle of men had attempted to ensnare Death so as to stop people from dying but had instead captured Dream, who waited for seventy years to escape his prison.
When he escapes, he sees what his absence has done to the people of Earth. He sets off to find his tools of his trade... the items that contain his energy, his spirit. The first is on Earth and we meet some of the J.L.A. and Constantine. The next is in Hell, where Lucifer reigns with two other lords. The final is on Earth as well, but is in the hands of a sadistic lunatic. The final tool proves to be the most difficult to retrieve but is rewarding to Dream in ways than he could not have thought.