Having only ever gotten halfway through the whole Sandman saga in previous attempts, I picked up the first volume again and read through it. This is pHaving only ever gotten halfway through the whole Sandman saga in previous attempts, I picked up the first volume again and read through it. This is perhaps my tenth time reading this collection so it's very familiar but I was struck once again by its power. The prologue and afterward are quick to point out that this is a book that is feeling its way along in this initial arc, but I don't find a lot to complain about. In particular the chilling chapter titled "24 Hours" is raw horror at its finest and the introduction of Death in the final issue is… well, let's just say there's a very good reason why Neil Gaiman's depiction of the cheerful incarnation of mortality is so popular.
I do think that Sam Keith's art weighs down the first few chapters, and some of the efforts to insert the series in the larger DC continuum are a little ill-advised, but overall this is a fine collection and a very good graphic novel in and of itself....more
Following the first Sandman story arc, which as many have pointed out amounts to a fetch quest, Neil Gaiman stretches and belts out this incredible, iFollowing the first Sandman story arc, which as many have pointed out amounts to a fetch quest, Neil Gaiman stretches and belts out this incredible, interwoven story in seven parts, plus a fine prologue (Tales In The Sand). It was this volume that really made me a fan of Mr. Gaiman and it's probably also the reason why I have never finished The Sandman series, despite owning them for years. Maybe that sounds funny but I love this graphic novel so much that I suspect if none of the remaining eight volumes ever get any better, I'll still think of The Sandman as fantastic. There has been (up until now, I hope) something oddly comforting about knowing that if I never finish, perhaps I have volumes as good as this still in store for me.
Trust when I say it doesn't make much more sense to me, either.
The Doll's House is the story of Rose Walker, a dream vortex. I guess you could say that. It's really so much more. It's not really worth trying to summarize the events of this book, so instead let me tell you some of the things that I love about it. First, I love that elements from Preludes & Nocturnes, which may have just been throwaway details in other authors' hands, resurface here. Rose Walker is Unity Kinkaid's granddaughter, Unity being one of those affected by the sleeping sickness when Dream was imprisoned at the beginning of Preludes. Perhaps the whole storyline was planned for far in advance, perhaps not. The point is, it's one of those things authors do on occasion that feels thrilling (at least to me). Did they pick a tiny morsel from a previous episode/work/story and expand it magnificently later? Did they know back when that it would resurface at some later date? The answer is not significant, it is the question that delights me.
Secondly, The Doll's House shows how willing Gaiman is to reward patience. Not many writers would take the time out smack in the middle of a plot line to digress so far as to relate a tale seemingly disconnected from the central narrative the way Mr. Gaiman does in part four, "Men Of Good Fortune." Again, a small detail from this chapter is revisited later (in Dream Country) and yet it is ultimately significant in revealing aspects of the Dream's personality, nature, and how he interacts with humans. This matters late in the book when Dream finally confronts Rose.
Third, The Doll's House really begins to show how Mr. Gaiman and his artists work together to tell stories that play to the medium. From the sidelong orientation that functions as dream designator in part one to the stylistic dreamscapes of the roommates in part six, this is a story specifically told in words and pictures. I think in part The Sandman works because by its nature it traffics in the surreal, the wild, the freeform imagination. These are the kinds of things that would suffer some by prose alone, so subject to the reader's prejudices and interpretations that the signal can get lost. I actually thought this was the principal issue with another of Mr. Gaiman's works, American Gods, which I had a hard time following near the end. Perhaps if that book had been a graphic novel…
I could call out so many more details that make this a wonderful graphic novel, from the delightfully twisted concept of a serial killer convention to the mysterious introduction to twins Despair and Desire (and the sizzling final conversation between Dream and the latter), all the way to the pitch-perfect climax, but suffice to say there is very little I don't like about The Doll's House. Typically after I read this volume I'm disinclined to continue reading. After this most recent read, I think I'm finally ready to see if The Sandman has anything else this good to offer....more
After the tour de force that is The Doll's House, Neil Gaiman comes on with a four-issue interlude of one-shots. Three of these four are very good toAfter the tour de force that is The Doll's House, Neil Gaiman comes on with a four-issue interlude of one-shots. Three of these four are very good to great, the last one, Façade, being a story featuring Death which makes it enjoyable just because she's such a great character but otherwise somewhat lacking by comparison.
The first story, Calliope, is one that I wonder if others find as amazing. This is a writer's story about writing and one of the few of its kind that don't immediately strike me as self-indulgent perhaps because Gaiman is so raw in his depiction of the lust writers hold for relevance and significance. In the same stroke he defines both the writer's dream life as well as reveals the selfish, brutish truth beneath it and I'd be lying if I said the whole thing didn't make me squirm. The second story, A Dream Of A Thousand Cats, is one of those things that is just this side of silly but somehow manages to be illuminating and at no point is it not a fun read, which is perhaps not the typical course for Gaiman's Sandman. The third story is the brassy tale A Midsummer Night's Dream, which is basically Gaiman and The Sandman's take on The Bard, and while it could have been a disaster, I suspect that only the very bold or the very gifted might even consider a tale like this, Gaiman who happens to be both is among the few who could then pull it off.
What nearly pushes this book over the top into must-read, must-have territory is the inclusion of the annotated script for Calliope at the back of the book. Gaiman's introduction to the script is full of warnings and obvious doubt, and I suspect the average comic fan would find this at best shrug-worthy, but for a wannabe writer/artist/comic creator, the behind-the-scenes glimpse is remarkable and so very welcome. I don't know that I can legitimately recommend Dream Country any more than its collected works' merit suggests because let's face it, this is probably here because it adds an additional 36 pages onto what would otherwise be a painfully slim volume, but if you're of a writerly persuasion or you just like seeing how things get done, it's a delightful diversion. It's especially fun to flip back and forth between the script and the finished product itself to see how it all ended up....more