Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Sandman: Preludes & Nocturnes

What fun to step inside the world of the Sandman again, to revisit Dream and his Endless brothers and sisters, to relive that delightful mixture of horror, fantasy, mythology and humor dished up as only Neil Gaiman can. And what a perfect time of year (as in R.I.P. time!) to begin my reread of The Sandman books.

This collection collects the first eight Sandman comics in a single volume:
1. "Sleep of the Just"
2. "Imperfect Hosts"
3. "Dream a Little Dream of Me"
4. "A Hope in Hell"
5. "Passengers"
6. "24 Hours"
7. "Sound and Fury"
8."The Sound of Her Wings."

The first story opens in the early 1900s as magician Roderick Burgess (who reminded me of Aleister Crowley), in an attempt to conjure and capture Death, instead finds that he has captured something else. Not sure exactly who or what is this man who has appeared in his conjuring circle, Burgess strips him and imprisons him in a glass bubble.

Years and years go by as Dream, Death's brother, sits waiting patiently for his release. Meanwhile, during his absence, people all over the world succumb to a strange sleeping sickness. One woman falls asleep as a teenager, gives birth to a baby, and moves into old age - having slept through it all. It is many years later when Dream, now held captive by Burgess's son, finally escapes. He finds himself without his helm and other items of power, weakened and angry, and he begins his search for the things he needs in order to restore his kingdom and his strength, as well as to right the wrongs that have resulted in his extended absence.

I read the first few Sandman collections years ago, and I remember enjoying but not being head over heels with this first volume. It certainly sets the scene, and it is an interesting beginning, but it was the subsequent books that firmly cemented me as a Sandman fan. Still, this one has a lot to recommend it, particularly for those who enjoy some no-holds-barred horror from time to time. "24 Hours" certainly fits that bill, and of all the stories it was the one that I remembered most vividly in the more than ten years since I last read it. The violence of that story in particular makes this series (in my opinion) unsuitable for younger readers, despite the graphic novel format. My library shelves this with the adult collection, and for good reason. I'd recommend this to older teens and up.

My favorite story in the collection is "The Sound of Her Wings," which gives us some insight into Dream's character, particularly as he is finds himself depressed and directionless in the wake of his years of captivity. He's moping by the edge of a fountain when his sister shows up, a cute, upbeat goth girl who is the personification of death. I found myself grinning through the entire tale, as she quotes lines from Mary Poppins one minute, then loses her temper and scolds her brother the next, shouting, "You are utterly the stupidest, most self-centered, appallingest excuse for an anthropomorphic personification on this or any other plane!"

One reason I read very few comic books for many years was the lack of character development in so many of them. But not in this series. This particular story is where these characters first jumped into my heart. The characters attain a depth and complexity that make me truly care about them. I was surprised by the extent of Dream's compassion, particularly in the aftermath of his captivity, as he deals with some vicious and selfish people, many of whom are barely deserving of such forbearance on his part. I'm very much looking forward to the second volume in my reread of this compelling series, because as I remember, it was one of my favorites.

Books in The Sandman series:
1. Preludes & Nocturnes (collects The Sandman #1-8)
2. The Doll's House (collects The Sandman #9-16)
3. Dream Country (collects The Sandman #17-20)
4. Season of Mists (collects The Sandman #21-28)
5. A Game of You (collects The Sandman #32-37)
6. Fables and Reflections (collects The Sandman #29- 1, #38-40, #50, Sandman Special #1 and Vertigo Preview #1)
7. Brief Lives (collects The Sandman #41-49)
8. World's End (collects The Sandman #51- 56)
9. The Kindly Ones (collects The Sandman #57-69)
10. The Wake (collects The Sandman #70-75)

The Sandman: Preludes & Nocturnes (#1 in The Sandman graphic novel series) by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Sam Kieth, Mike Dringenberg and Malcolm Jones III (DC Comics, 1995, 1991)

Also reviewed at:
Fyrefly's Book Blog: "...this is not a comic to read right before bed – its horror roots show up quite prominently in the artwork, which does not shy away from the disturbing or gruesome, which this series has in spades."
Rhinoa's Ramblings: "I enjoyed the mythological references and how Morpheus gains his freedom from Hell...very powerful stuff."
Stuff as Dreams Are Made On: "What I had forgotten about this first book is how dark it was and how disturbing it was. That kind of stuff doesn’t bother me, but if you read this series and it does bother you, don’t let it stop you from continuing on with it. They’re not all this disturbing."
Valentina's Room: "About the art...at first I wasn't too impressed . The stories made up for it, though. Then with "The Doll's House" it really takes off."

14 comments:

  1. "The Sound of Her Wings" is my favourite too. Such a lovely story.

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  2. I'm new to your blog and think you have a terrific site!

    I haven't read this series, but from your review I can tell it's perfect for the upcoming R.I.P. challenge.

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  3. I love the Sandman best when the stories include the others of the Endless. Hence my fondness for Season of Mists and Brief Lives. :)

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  4. Nymeth - That does not surprise me! :-)

    Suko - Thanks so much! It's nice to meet you. :-) You are right, it is the perfect series for this challenge, and I'm having a lot of fun with it. Just finished the third one yesterday.

    Jenny - I am very excited to move on to the ones that I never read. So far there have only been brief glimpses of the Endless, except for Death.

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  5. I am so glad you enjoyed this on a reread. I've went back and reread most of the series a couple of times. You are right in that this first volume really sets the stage for later developments, but I still enjoy reading this one. Probably more so on a second read because you know the characters better and are more invested in them.

    Great review Darla!

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  6. Thanks, Carl! I have also noticed that reading it after a space of this many years gives a slightly different perspective than I had as a 20-something reading it. So that's been interesting!

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  7. Sandman is always amazing for me & I love "The Sound of Her Wings." My favorite of the series is A Game of You - love that. You're making me want to go back & re-read - maybe a project for the weekend!

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  8. Caitlin - These have been such great rereads so far. I think I'm going to have to buy them (maybe happy elves will bring me The Absolute Sandman for Christmas). They are good every time, and I notice something new or different each time I read them. Enjoy your reread!

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  9. Darla, I read this one last year for a guest review at The Book Smugglers - a dare since I'd never read a graphic novel in my life! I have to admit I enjoyed it, but definitely got the feeling that there was much more to the entire story than what was presented in this first installment. Unfortunately I never got around to reading the rest of them, but I probably should - all the characters would make more sense after the fact.

    And you're right - 24 Hours was probably the most effective, and horrifying.

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  10. Hi, Kate! I think that you would not regret continuing on in the series. It just gets better and better, and I'm excited to read on past the point where I stopped the last time. That is interesting that it's the first graphic novel you've ever read - have you gone on to read more?

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  11. Sadly enough, no. I explained it better in my review, but I'm simply not a very visual person, and I was well more interested in the words than the illustrations. I think I could grow to appreciate them if I cultivated the interest, but it's just not been a pressing need. I should look into finding the rest of the Sandman series at the library, though, since I definitely get the feeling I'm missing out on something.

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  12. Kate - That is exactly how I felt about graphic novels at first, too - I kept kind of forgetting about the pictures and reading fast, and getting all confused. Once I learned to slow down and let the other part of my brain play too, I found myself really loving them. If it weren't for kids at my library putting them in my hands and telling me I'd love them, I might not have kept trying, and I'm glad I did! I will be interested to hear your thoughts if you continue with Sandman.

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  13. Thank you for this review. I just finished reading The Kindly Ones and am halfway through The Wake. It has been quite a while since I read the first eight trades and I'm trying to remember all that happened before, piece things together. I think I'll need to completely re-read the entire series, which will be no hardship since it is, for lack of a better word...incredible! I look forward to reading your reviews on the remaining stories. :)

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  14. Hi, Pamela - I actually feel a little sad on your behalf that you are at the very end of the series. I don't want to go through them too quickly because of that. :-) Sounds like a reread is in order for you. I'm sure enjoying mine so far! It's an amazing series, isn't it?!

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