Friday, November 7, 2008

Review- The Sandman Vol. 1 by Neil Gaiman

You may remember my glowing review of Watchmen several weeks ago. (Review is here.) You may remember me saying that I don't usually read graphic novels because I don't usually understand them. You may remember how very very much I loved Watchmen.

Well, a good friend of mine got the same earful of happiness after I read Watchmen, and she, being a comic book buff, promptly gave me recommendations! The Sandman was on the top of her list. And friends... it's awesome. I freely admit that I had trouble following it for the first half, falling prey to my usual nemeses: Not being able to remember which characters were which and not being able to tell what was going on in the frame. But something in it really appealed to me, and in the middle of the book, suddenly it started making sense. A lot of sense.

I love anthropomorphic personifications. Maybe that's a weird sentence, but I do. Once I could really grasp that this is a book about personifications, then I had a handle to hold on to while I figured the rest of the book out. And these personifications are like no others. They're actually SCARY. Most of the time when something is made human, it loses a sense of Otherness and we start to oversympathize. But, while these characters could be sympathized with, (boy could they, I think I'm in love with Dream) they never stopped being something larger than life.

The disjointedness of the plot and art were probably what I had to get used to the most, but I really like them now. There are a lot of sudden transitions and flipping back and forth between scenes. There's a lot of thick black and bold, dark colors. That's the mood of the story, and it's wonderful. Even I, a person of no squeamish tendencies, had one or two gross-out moments (warning for those of more delicate sensibilities,) but it reassures me when a story doesn't shy away from the bad stuff. When the bad guys are bad.

I have three favorite scenes. The first: the duel in Hell. This was when I really scooted up to the edge of my seat and started paying attention. I thought "Hey, I better keep an eye on this Dream guy, he knows his stuff." He had me at "I am h--" ...well, I won't spoil.

The second: Toward the end, when Dream was with Doctor Destiny for the last time. This scene was the one that showed me how incredible Dream really is, how powerful but still with a huge grasp of the way things really are.

The last: The final chapter. Because Death was in it, and she was scary!

So. This was the first volume of eleven. I'm discovering that there's a real intensity that can be achieved in the graphic novel form, like a story distilled into only the most important images and dialogue, and I look forward to reading the rest!

Buy The Sandman Vol. 1: Preludes and Nocturnes


  1. I'm so glad you liked it! I don't blame you for your trouble with the beginning--this is most definitely a first novel kinda feel, and the creative team was still getting its balance. But the issue in hell was where it all started to come together for me. I urge people to hang in through the Death issue, and I think once you start the next storyline, A Doll's House, you'll be well and truly hooked. Like any series, it has ups and downs, but I found it consistently good, and IMO had a GREAT ending issue that tied everything together.

  2. Thanks! I finished A Doll's House over the weekend and Dream Country today. Loved them both, but somehow I wasn't quite as wowed with them. Unfortunately my library doesn't have the rest and I'll have to buy them to read them, so it may take a while. One can only hope for Christmas gift cards...


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