Rating out of 5:
Fans of Neil Gaiman’s enduring series will be delighted to hold his recently completed prequel volume, The Sandman: Overture, in their eager hands. Newcomers will encounter a succinct, single volume storyline, requiring no explicit knowledge of the previous Sandman universe, and an ensnaring entry point into one of the most brilliant and audacious works of modern comics.
Overture (which began publication in 2013) is the first new Sandman work to grace the shelf in over a decade, since Endless Nights ended the dry spell following the original 1989-1996 run of graphic novels. Finally, we learn what weakened Dream, prompting his captivity in Sandman Vol. 1, discover the fate of the first Dream Vortex, and even meet the Endless’ elusive parents….
J.H. Williams III and Dave Stewart’s psychedelic illustrations make Overture the most retina-searing volume in the series. Gone are the minimalist sketches and moody monochrome, replaced with unapologetic surrealism: writhing explosions of neon and tie-dye, vibrant jewel tones and flaming panoramas of light. This is a world infinitely brighter than anything we have known before.
The characters, however, are largely the same. Perennial favorites like the Corinthian and Mad Hettie make their cameos, as well as all the Endless, the protagonist’s idiosyncratic and dysfunctional family. Morpheus is as morose as ever; what we see here is the old Dream, darkly Byronic, but not yet tragic (anti)hero. Todd Klein’s lettering puts the reader in familiar territory, as do Dave McKean’s weirdly perfect covers.
The writing itself is not the most compelling to come out of the Sandman, but as usual, shines more vividly than even the best colorist could hope to match (though Stewart is certainly one of the best). There is a truly glorious scene towards the beginning where the titular character unexpectedly runs into himself… well, selves… and marvelous confusion ensues. And a cat. No one writes cats like Neil Gaiman.
Any Sandman is better than no Sandman, and Overture is definitely one of the more expansive chapters of Morpheus’s tale. Gaiman strikes a happy balance between tying up loose ends and letting mysteries persist. Read and be enlightened. Read and be enthralled.
-Brigid Ehrmantraut ’18