I have to be honest, I was never hooked on comic books as a kid; I was hooked on the characters. I loved to collect comic book cards, I loved to devour the vital statistics and backstory of every superhero and villain known to man. It was like getting the good stuff without having to make a huge committment. Periodically, my interest bent towards an X-Men or Spider Man comic book, and I was into the Wolverine comic books for a while, but on the whole, it's been a long time.
Until recently. Until The Sandman. It's almost like I've been sleeping all these years. Hmmm.
Sandman is a graphic novel. Graphic novel is a fancy word for adult comic book. It's one of those words we use so we don't sound or feel so childish when we know that, basically, the stigma is that adults don't read comic books. But unlike most of the childish vices we delve into, The Sandman is a comic book that takes you back, that reminds you of the joys of fantastical storytelling. It takes you places, on wings, in style.
Enter the world of Neil Gaiman, writer of The Sandman, where dreams come from an entity whose sister is Death. The Sandman was accidentally summoned by a group of power and life hungry men hoping to capture Death and stay alive forever. Not realizing they had made a mistake, and afraid of upsetting forces they perhaps shouldn't have tampered with, they kept him trapped for years, letting their children inherit their mistakes. The Sandman lost three powerful relics during his enslavement and, when he escaped, came back to a world that hadn't had a good nights rest since he was captured.
Preludes and Nocturnes, the first volume of many, follows The Sandman on a quest to find his lost relics. Along the way, he encounters some characters we've met before (John Constantine, Scarecrow, etc.) and nearly meets up with others more tantallizing (The Justice League of America and Batman, for instance). This alone enriches The Sandman's world, and makes it a pleasure to read the stories.
The artwork is beautifully devastating and the writing gets better with each story. It's neat to see a writer find his voice, try out things that may not have worked but sound really cool conceptually, and finally to see the payoff of what we know is very hard work. While I didn't particularly "buy" all of the stories, I definitely reveled in the fun that they had to offer.
The cover? Come on, it's a comic book cover. It's flippin sweet! Super serial.