Jul 28, 2009

[Comics] The Sandman Vol. 1 - Preludes & Nocturnes

The Sandman Vol. 1 - Preludes & NocturnesThe Vertigo line of DC Comics has always been an interesting one, one that I had always wanted to get into right away but naturally the warning about potentially mature content ensured that my folks wouldn't let me collect any of the titles in my younger years. Fast forward to the present day and my new geekier life with my current partner and I find myself with access to a vast library of comic books, including a number of the major Vertigo titles.

I know, sounds like heaven, right?

So naturally one of the best-known Vertigo characters was at the top of my list of comics that I wanted to read and I recently finished reading the entire series run and it was something else. I held back from reviewing each of the ten compilations right away since I felt it was important to get a perspective of the entire series before really deciding how things went for me.

I'm pretty sure the investment of time was more than worth it. So now over the next few weeks, I'll be releasing my reviews of the various The Sandman compilations, starting with this review.

The Sandman: Preludes & Nocturnes is the first compilation of the landmark Vertigo title, collecting the first 8 issues of the series in one book. It more or less covers the More Than Rubies storyline with the addition of the 8th issue, which is a standalone story.

Dream (comics)Image via Wikipedia

The premise of the storyline is basic enough - we are introduced to Dream, one of the 7 Endless who are personifications of various philosophical or fundamental forces of the human experience. However instead of being immediately subjected to the potential power and majesty of these entities, we find Morpheus, the Lord of Dreams captured by some English magician named Roderick Burgess. The story then follows the attempts of Burgess to be granted a boon by their Endless contained in a glass prison only to have him outlive them without giving them anything.

Naturally Dream eventually escapes because of the carelessness of his captors. Being away from his realm for more than 70 years, Dream finds his Kingdom in disarray. Before he can put things right, he needs to regain key artifacts of his station taken from him during his captivity - his pouch of sand, his helm and his ruby.

I was surprised at how this story started and it certainly pressed home that this was not just another comic book title. Instead of us following the protagonist around in his adventures (so to speak), we ended up with a story where the main character is imprisoned and spend more time following his captors around than Dream himself. This sort of becomes a recurring theme over the years where many of the stories of The Sandman tend to not directly involve him, but instead he's merely a bit player of sorts in the background with other characters taking the fore.

And given its more mature focus, the title does not hold your hand and fully explain the universe that you're in or the precise nature of the lead characters. At the end of this volume, you'll only have a vague idea of who the Endless are but will not fully understand what they truly represent. You won't even know who all of them are. You also won't fully understand what are Dreams full powers and what exactly he has to "do" as Lord of Dreams in terms of his responsibilities towards the smooth functioning of all creation. The series just creates more and more questions and instead rewards ones own thinking and imagination, leaving you, the reader, to try and fill in the blanks and try to postulate how precisely this universe works. That is but one of the wonders of this series.

Plus the art style does amazingly well to capture the sense of the mutability of the dream realm and the characters involved instead of resorting to the clean-cut lines of older comics. I keeps things highly vibrant and interesting and gives a lot of credit to the reader's ability to imagine how things might truly be and put more dimension and substance into the blurry shadows and empty spaces across the panels.

Preludes & Nocturnes is a great way to start a series, something that gives you a taste of the complexity and individuality of the protagonist without giving you too much, thus urging you to wonder and ask more questions. It drives a new reader to want to read more if only to understand just what Morpheus is really supposed to be and how it all factors into the larger picture.

This volume gets 4 daydreams out of a possible 5.

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