In the latest edition of Comics to Read Before You Die, Jessie Robertson looks at The Sandman Vol.1 Preludes & Nocturnes…
Created by Neil Gaiman, Sam Keith & Mike Dringenberg.
This isn’t going to be so much a review, as an awakening.
Comic books have been around for many decades, but comic books as an art form, created for that purpose, and not just entertainment, the merits of that criteria could be argued. If you have been reading comic books for a while and have at least entertained the idea of keeping an open mind, then you have most undoubtedly heard of Sandman. It’s the one with the strange covers of real objects placed into an almost-display box, with no characters on them. He’s the guy with the weird black hair. It’s talked about as being great. All these allusions to the book are true, as true as I had known them. I read a Sandman book years ago when I used to check out trade paperbacks by the dozen from the library and found it intriguing and actually interesting. It was a book I always knew I would come back to one day. I found this particular book at Half-Price books for 5 bucks, complete with CD_Rom that included over 1,000 pages of DC Comic book goodness. Can I even play this CD-Rom anywhere? I have no idea. But, just as the Sandman ethereally floats into little children’s bedrooms at night when their eyelids are getting heavy, and sprinkles his magic dust on them for a good night’s slumber, let me blast loud air-horns into your face and drive a garbage truck full of glass windows off a cliff into your eardrum: WAKE UP! Find this book and read it.
Actually, I take that back. You just don’t read Sandman, you experience it. This isn’t a book where I break down the plot and give you major points to look for and look forward to; to do that here is a disservice. Not that that can’t be said for the majority of all reviews, depending on how lean or fat they are with details, but when I picked this up and began reading it, it took me to places I didn’t expect to go. It elevates itself beyond just a normal 22 page comic with art; it elevates itself to a great piece of literature, with finely crafted and dark, blood curdling images accompanying it. It becomes something more than just a book about a super hero redeeming himself, or saving his city, because, in a way, this book has both of those paths carved out; I could tell you it has that super surreal art work like Hellblazer and Fables does, with unique panels laid out on every page, or that the story begins with a sick cult trying to summon powers beyond their control to a brother and sister spending the day together as people die all around them and you would be lost, alone in the woods, with no anchor to show you why you’re there or what’s going on. That’s why, this book, more than any other I’ve read in a long time, deserves to be experienced by fresh eyes, not eyes heavy with sleep. Before the Sandman drips through your open window and prepares his dust for you, open wide, light a candle, and envelop yourself in the world of the Dreaming, and Neil Gaiman’s greatest creation. You won’t regret it.