“THE SANDMAN: OVERTURE” (Comic Review)
Few comics have left a cultural mark like SANDMAN. One of the first works to break out of the binds of “children’s entertainment,” this epic series helped re-define the possibilities of comic books. Following in the footsteps of the Alan Moore’s fantastic run on SWAMP THING, THE Sandman was released to an audience hungry for more esoteric and explorative tales of terror. Unlike earlier horror stories of schlocky monsters and ironic twists of fate, this new addition explored the darker side of humanity, delving into the depths of philosophy, magic, and madness, creating a tale that still resonates with readers almost 25 years later. To celebrate its upcoming silver anniversary in January, DC/Vertigo is giving the Sandman the reception of a lifetime, starting with a brand new, six-issue mini-series titled THE SANDMAN: OVERTURE.
Though not the first attempt at adding to the Sandman’s mythos, this is the first continuation series to once again focus on Morpheus as its primary character. The story begins as grandiose as expected from the seminal work, with the destruction of an entire planet populated by creatures that are more function than form. Swirling, rainbows of insects and self-aware plants become ashes as a fire blazes through their dream world, leaving Morpheus’ figure to die in the destruction. The comic quickly begins to pan from one unusual situation to another, seemingly random, but with a hint of resolution promised with each panel. A man with a screen for a face; a flash of conversation with Death and Destiny; and a meeting with the tooth-eyed Corinthian all drive Morpheus forward as he searches for the source of a call harking to him from the edges of creation.
Gorgeous worlds, strange people, and scattered, detailed artwork are just tip of the iceberg of what is already appearing to be a solid addition to the Sandman library. Even within the first issue, the readers are immediately immersed in the bizarre world of the human subconscious, a place where things are never quite what they seem. With Neil Gaiman back at the helm, the S.S. Sandman is back on the wild seas of comic fandom, reminding us why we loved the series in the first place. OVERTURE also brings back something that not only horror books, but much of the medium in general, has been missing: a sense of wonderment. With plenty of current titles steeped in realism and a quick explanation, it’s exciting to see a series step away from such drudgeries and allow for a bit of imagination. Much like the large, fantastical works of the late seventies and early eighties, a little strangeness goes a long way, where a touch of faith and creative license can create a whole new world of possibilities.
Gaiman paints a vivid portrait of his characters without stomping over old ground, creating a brand new adventure for the classic hero. J.H. Williams’ artwork is the perfect companion to the words, playing with the intricacies of the author’s design. He jumps styles with every leap of the story, from fine pencil work to full colored pieces, without ever coming off as unnecessary. The two just work so, so well together. A testament to what comics could be, have been, and hopefully, will be again, THE SANDMAN: OVERTURE is quickly on its way to becoming as essential as its predecessor.