Sunday, September 12, 2010

Book Review - Sandman, by Neil Gaiman (Issues 1-20)

Title:  Sandman
Author:  Neil Gaiman
Genre:  Fantasy / Comic
Rating:  4 out of 5 crazy nightmares

Neil Gaiman has proven himself to be one of the most influential writers of fantasy novels and poetry.  I take time to look at one very different Gaiman project:  the comic book series Sandman.  How does it stack up to one's expectations?

Just a quick disclaimer here, folks.  This is the first time I have reviewed a comic book.  And while I'm not 100% sure on how to go about it correctly, I promise I will do my best to consider both the writing and visual aspects of the comic book.  Also note that this review takes into consideration the first twenty issues of the comic.

The comic book Sandman follows the adventures of Morpheus, the god of dreams.  The series begins with the deity being held captive - his powerful artifacts and belongings being stolen and strewn throughout Earth and hell.  Morpheus eventually breaks free of his prison and encounters many colorful characters on his journey to attain his former power.  This is the basic premise of the series, but the story is much more complicated and interwoven.

The writing of Sandman is spot on for what one would expect from Gaiman.  The dry wit is there, along with undertones of fantasy and brooding darkness (the latter much more so than his other works).  This is an important point to keep in mind about this series.  Gaiman tackles some heavy issues in this series (substance abuse, death, serial killers), and although he manages to weave everything together nicely, the story does get a little dark at times.

However, for the most part Sandman is very well written.  Themes of hope and redemption run throughout, especially when Gaimain introduces his personification of Death (incidentally one of Morpheus' siblings).  These issues are some of the best in the series and really make you think about why people die and what happens afterward.

Most issues in this selection are great, but there are also some that don't quite hit the mark for this reader.  For instance, one of the longer chapters involves demons and fanciful creatures putting on a Victorian-era play for Morpheus for apparently no reason.

 Here are some highlights regarding the plot of Sandman:
  • Two of Morpheus' nightmare creatures attempt to overthrow his throne while he is imprisoned
  • Morpheus meets up with the rulers of hell and competes with a demon in a battle of wits
  • A disfigured and imprisoned Dr. Doom faces off with the king of dreams in a fight to the death
  • A group of people in a diner are held under the twisted persuasion and mind control of an evil man
  • A young girl inadvertantly stumbles upon a convention for murderers
  • Morpheus grants a man from medieval times endless life, and checks in on him throughout the centuries to see how his life has changed
The art of Sandman is amazing, and is really a treat to look at.  The artists blend color panels with black and white to great effect, and the individual details in each page can have you spending a lot of time just staring at the book.

I have never been a great connesuir of comic books, but I was pleasantly surprised by this one.  I definitely reccomend this series if you like comics, and even if you don't it's worth a try!

For more information about Sandman, check out my Spotlight post on Morpheus and my Review of The Ultimate Sandman, Volume 1.

4 out of 5 crazy nightmares!

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