Non-Nostalgia Reviews

Non-Nostalgia Reviews: The Sandman: Overture #1


DC Comics has been on a bit of a nostalgia kick lately, with prequels for Watchmen and now a new prequel for The Sandman. Luckily, unlike the Watchmen prequels, The Sandman: Overture is being written by the original creator, Neil Gaiman, himself.  Also, while it’s possible that the main reason this is coming out now about twenty years (God that’s depressing) after The Sandman concluded is that Neil Gaiman got a call from an editor, Gaiman has been discussing a possible prequel in interviews as early as the ’90s.  From what I understand, the two possibilities being openly mentioned were a series about how Delight of the Endless became Delirium or a story explaining why an occultist was able to imprison a virtually omnipotent being like Dream in the first place, the event that began the Sandman saga.  This series, much to the disappointment of some fans I’m sure, is about the latter (but, who knows, maybe some clues about the former will show up as well)…

It’s 1915, and Dream of the Endless is diligently (and ruthlessly) attending to some of his responsibilities as the personification of the act of dreaming.  Suddenly he does what would normally be unthinkable:  stopping in the middle of carrying out in the task.  Something is calling him, a summons so powerful that even a fundamental force of sentient existence can only barely delay answering it.  Longtime readers might assume it’s all because of a quasi-crackpot, quasi-sorcerer in London, but the answer is something a bit more cosmic…

Part of the problem with prequels is their preoccupation with filling in the gaps that only diehard fans really focused on  It’s too soon to tell if The Sandman: Overture will fall into that trap too, but I will admit I was concerned when I heard that the impetus of the prequel is to explain how Roderick Burgess was able to capture Dream in The Sandman #1.  However, it’s clear that this is a story Gaiman wants to tell, and if the main motive is to elaborate on some backstory this issue also ends with Gaiman potentially explaining one aspect of the Endless’s existence that readers of The Sandman have tended to ponder, which I can’t contemplate myself in this space without giving a lot away already.

The art by J.H. Williams III is, of course, gorgeous, whether it’s painting an alien world populated by sentient plant life or a dream of a dreary London office.  As for Gaiman’s script, for this long-time fan of The Sandman it hits all the right notes.  Skeptical readers might worry if the series will succumb to another dreaded problem with prequels, cameo-itis, but while there are a lot of familiar faces even in the first issue all of them carry on the plot.  Still, I hope we will get to see some new characters to add to the already rich Sandman mythos.

As with all reviews of just the first issue of a comic series, this is basically just the review of the first chapter of a novel or the first fifteen minutes or so of a movie.  Nonetheless, I just wanted to add my own little voice to the deluge of promotions for this, especially for those who might be reluctant because of certain well-publicized and infamous…missteps that the management at DC have made recently.  All that aside, despite some recent successes like American Vampire, the Vertigo line, which I have a great deal of fondness for since it played a huge role in teaching me that the medium can do so much more than just superheroes, has been floundering.  Here’s hoping that, much like how The Sandman helped make Vertigo what it was back in the day, The Sandman: Overture can revitalize the line.


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