The Sandman: Overture #1 by Neil Gaiman (Comics Review)

Joining the ranks of all the Vertigo titles I’ve been reading of late is the first in a “new” series by noted SFF author Neil Gaiman, The Sandman: Overture. This series is a prequel to The Sandman that Vertigo used to publish a few years back and is one of Gaiman’s earlier works of fiction, and one of his earliest successes to boot. From what I gather, The Sandman is very much a classic series in the industry, and of its greatest successes and yet owing nothing to the superhero genre at all.

I’ve never read anything by Neil Gaiman before, and this pretty much my first experience of his work as a result. Its been mixed. There are some great strengths of this issue, but there are a lot of weaknesses as well. But as someone approaching this world, this setting for the first time, I’m often left in the dark as to what is going on.

The Sandman - Overture 01The story here is divided into multiple viewpoints, each of which appears to be telling a different story, with extremely little in the way of any overlap. There is a really interesting and innovative start, but then things kind of go all weird and complicated before ending on a really intriguing note. But what really stands out here is the artwork, which is absolutely gorgeous and represents some of the best I’ve seen in my as a comics reader and reviewer.

My main problem with this issue was there was no central storyline or a character to carry through the entire script. The broken narrative, each with a completely different character and situation, made for a really odd and disconnected reading experience, something that really isn’t to my tastes. I have no doubt that fans of The Sandman will be used to something like this, particularly since they are already familiar with the world and the characters, but I’m afraid that very little of it resonated with me. The opening storyline, involving the (sentient) carnivorous plant Quorian was pretty amazing, the way it was told, but the bits with George Portcullis and Ian Stuart and Morpheus proved to be frustrating since the story didn’t actually seem to go anywhere.

Much of the story here is presented as if its being narrated from a book by an unknown individual, someone a few levels above the typical human understanding and level of conscious thought. It added something mystical and high concept to the story, but I lacked a frame of reference for the things that were happening here, and in that respect, I just could not get into the story at all.

Its rather interesting really. This issue proved to me why I had stayed off The Sandman till now. Based on everything I’d heard, this just did not seem like a comic I could enjoy. It is far too cerebral an experience for someone of my more… mundane tastes. Sure, I love a lot of the stuff that Vertigo has put out over the years, but The Sandman represents something extremely left-field, something that rewards those who are looking for an out-of-the-world experience. Because that is exactly what this is.

And that brings me to the art, which is phenomenal in all respects. J. H. Williams III is the penciller here with Dave Stewart on the colours and Todd Klein on the letters. Williams has also done the cover artwork you see above, with a variant having been done by artist Dave McKean. The art throughout this issue was absolutely amazing. So much eye-popping detail, so many different things, so many different approaches and styles. Its a melting pot of everything really, and together, it represents something completely out-of-this-world, which is for the best since it fits hand-in-glove with Neil Gaiman’s script. Complex, nuanced, multi-layered, these are all the words I’d use to describe the artwork. Definitely an amazing job by Williams and Stewart.

The way I look at it, this issue is one where Neil Gaiman is reintroducing all his characters and is setting the stage for whatever else follows. The last couple pages seem to bear that out, given how they are presented as “getting the team together” pages, with tons of characters, all different from each other, being represented here. I’m somewhat disappointed in the comic, since I expected far better of it, but I’m also slightly disappointed in myself that I could not enjoy this comic more, because I wanted to.

Guess we’ll see what the second issue brings next month.

Rating: 5/10

Posted on October 31, 2013, in Comics Reviews, Review Central and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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