The Sandman: Preludes & Nocturnes (Neil Gaiman, Sam Kieth, Mike Dringenberg, Malcolm Jones III)

The Sandman: Preludes & Nocturnes collects issues 1-8 of The Sandman series written by Neil Gaiman, and illustrated by Sam Kieth, Mike Dringenberg and Malcolm Jones III. I read the German translation by Gerlinde Althoff.
Finished on: 8.9.2022

Plot:
When the magician Roderick Burgess sets out to capture Death (and end up with immortality), something goes wrong. Instead of Death, he ends up with Dream in a cage. Ever enterprising, Burgess is sure that he can make this work for himself, too. And if he can’t, it is probably better to keep him locked up and not draw attention to the fact that he did. But Dream is one of the Eternals. Even without the magical items Burgess stripped from him, he can bide his time. And his day will come. Meanwhile though, a world without Dream shows signs of decay as a sleeping sickness ravages its people.

I’ve had the Sandman comics at home since about forever (I bought them so long ago, I still have them in German and not English). But as these things go, I never read them. Now with the TV show out, I decided it was finally time. And the start is definitely promising, albeit a little uneven.

The comic cover showing the head of Dream, posed over a tower of books.

The 8 issues that are collected here are (partly) very different from each other and range from melancholic to absolutely grim. There are traces of humor (especially when Dream challenges the demon in hell, with a special highlight appearance of Lucifer), but mostly it’s really sad (like the story with Constantine) or simply fucked up as hell (like Dr Destiny in the café). I can imagine that not all issues will appeal equally to all people, but I appreciated them all in their variation. Only the 8th issue wasn’t exactly great. I mean, that issue is absolutely saved by Death’s presence (I actually read the Death spin-off comics some time ago), but I didn’t really get Dream’s despondency in it. Or rather, I didn’t understand why it would come from a sense of a lacking purpose and not from, you know, general trauma.

Anyway, the first 8 issues do a pretty good job in establishing Dream as a character and setting up the story for a larger plot. But, as the title suggests, it often really feels like a prelude to the actual story, and as if Gaiman and Co were still feeling their way into the story, the character, and maybe even the medium. (Judging from the afterword by Gaiman, this seems to be exactly what happened, by the way.) That doesn’t mean, though, that I didn’t get curious about what woudl happen next.

I liked the art overall, though I wasn’t too happy with Dream and Dr Destiny’s highly stylized facial features, I have to admit. I thought that the style took away from their expressiveness in its exaggeration. The real star regarding the images is Dave McKean though, who designed the covers. They are really amazing.

Despite its flaws, Sandman: Preludes and Nocturnes is a strong start of the series, one that made me curious and looking forward to the next installment.

Summarizing: consider me hooked.

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