The Sandman: Overture #1: A review

J.H. Williams III's cover at the left and Dave McKean's cover at the right.
J.H. Williams III's cover at the left and Dave McKean's cover at the right.

A lot can happen in 25 years. Millions of people have been inspired, dreams have been dreamt, and The Sandman has returned. This year marks a busy time for The Sandman's creator Neil Gaiman, and the release of his highly-anticipated prequel to the seminal graphic-novel series finally arrived just before Halloween.

Living up to the hype of avid fans' dreams can be daunting, and there's no chance of pleasing everyone. But was this first issue disappointing?

See also: The dark knight returns for Neil Gaiman [Cover story] Top 10 original issues of Neil Gaiman's Sandman A nostalgic return for Neil Gaiman with The Ocean at the End of the Lane

Absolutely not.

Once released, fans clamored to comic-book stores for physical copies while others opted for the digital edition of the first issue. But while seeing the artwork in crystalline colors on a screen can no doubt be striking, there's nothing quite like holding the copy in your hands, in the form that the series began in.

If for nothing else, J.H. Williams III's impeccably rendered illustrations with brilliant coloring by Dave Stewart are enough of a feast for the eyes. One might wish that they could tear each page out and hang them on their wall. However, Williams's artistic progression on each page is a masterpiece, so it'd be a crime to cut it up. The art leaps off the pages, vacillating between traditional comic blocking and a style that propels readers forward.

Early on, readers get a peek through the Corinthian's toothy eyes. It's simultaneously grotesque (check out that string of spittle on his top right tooth) and beautiful with the juxtaposition of ultra-pink gums and the grayscale life of 1915 London. Later, we get a gorgeous double gatefold spread that reveals a few other sides to Dream.

But that's not entirely why fans are here -- otherwise they could pick up a copy of Williams's Batwoman or Promethea (highly recommended, by the way). Fans are undoubtedly here for The Sandman, and here for Dream, and boy, do we get a lot of him.

The issue opens on a strange little planet inhabited by various lifeforms, one of which are a species of carnivorous plants with beautiful minds. If you've ever wanted to see Morpheus as a plant, here you go. Spoiler: He looks a lot like the musically-inclined flora from Disney's Alice in Wonderland. From there, we follow Dream as he tries to unmake his "flawed and petty little dream" for the first time in early 20th-century London (which Morpheus eventually manages at the end of "The Collectors" in The Doll's House).

As for the rest of the publication, the gang's all here. Well, at least we see some familiar faces -- including Death and Destiny, Lucien and Marv, and a whole host of Dreams. Death looks the part with late Edwardian-era garb. She's missing the Eye of Horus curlicue beneath her eye, but she's got her signature ankh, her umbrella, and her sense of humor. Fans are re-introduced to old friends, and it's much like those meetings are in real life: a little awkward, full of expectations (some that go unfulfilled), and ultimately rewarding. We also get a taste of new characters -- like George Portcullis and Quorian the plant -- who are not fully fleshed out individuals, but are delightful introductions to new folks in the Dreaming nonetheless.

The first issue of The Sandman: Overture is like waking from a dream early in the evening before sleep fully sets in for the night. It's quick and vivid with plenty happening all at once, in medias res, and without resolution. And that's just how it should be. Gaiman knows not to show all his cards at once. After all, if Dream can wait upwards of 70 years to escape in the first volume of The Sandman, we can wait a few months to get a little closer to the answers we've been seeking since he was imprisoned.

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