25 years after the initial release of the comic, Neil Gaiman decides to create a prequel series that explains why Dream had been in a weakened state at the beginning of Preludes & Nocturnes. And I actually decided to wait until The Sandman: Overture before reading it since I wanted to go through the whole experience all at once. It took some discipline, but the release of the hardcover deluxe edition over the holidays made it all worth it.
And the end result - words fail me. It's already January and I'm still reeling from how much I enjoyed reading this book. It was like opening the first issue of The Sandman all over again And to achieve that sort of a feeling or even that experience takes a truly brilliant creative team to execute well.
Synopsis: The Sandman: Overture is a six-issue mini-series written by Neil Gaiman with art by J.H. Williams III. The original issues were followed by special editions about a month after the release of the original version and a deluxe hardcover we released at the end of 2015.
The book begins with death of a version of Dream in some other universe. But this event marks the beginning of something greater and other members of the Endless including Death and Destiny realize something significant is going to happen. And in time Dream is pulled away from his own duties and is summoned to a gathering of different incarnations of Dream. And this incident that has summoned all the different versions of Dream from across the multiverse that may mean the end of all of existence itself.
First off, it was almost creepy to get the feeling of reading the very first Sandman again as I went through the first issue of this series. sure the art is different and the story involved new characters and all that fun stuff. But once we had Dream walking through the pages, it felt like exactly the same Dream we encountered in the first issue. And I mean this as a total compliment - it was a new story with an old friend that was giving me all of the feels at the same time.
And the decision to go with J.H. Williams III as the primary artist was another great decision. I had already loved his work on Batwoman and it was an experience in itself to see what he'd do with a world like that of The Sandman. The way that he handles panels in such a creative manner lent itself really well to Gaiman's narrative with key moments when his creative panel approach also became part of the narrative itself.
The story as a whole feels like something so much greater than itself. We get to meet the Father and Mother figures that yielded The Endless. We got to travel to fascinating new worlds and meet different characters. And of course we still got to see a lot of familiar characters from the original Sandman run. There was something for everyone.
Thankfully, this is still a story that can stand on its own. While it is still a prequel (and in some ways a sequel) to the original Sandman, it's not absolutely essential that you read the original comics or any of the many, many spin-offs. The experience is a lot better of course if you have done some prior reading and if you have a better feel for some of the characters. But Gaiman knew what he was doing when he put this together. It truly does feel like a celebration of all that had come before.
I'm sorry, I'm overly gushing in this review and I'm probably not being all that clear from an objective perspective as to why this is a good book to pick up. Then again, maybe this highly emotional response to the book should in itself act as a testament to how good the book is? Or something along those lines?
The Sandman: Overture is a wonderful reading experience and one that reminds us why the original series was so life-changing for so many people. Plus it's a visually beautiful book that is a unique artistic experience as well. Thus the book gets a full 5 incarnations of Dream out of a possible 5.