48. ‘The Sandman: Preludes and Nocturnes’ by Neil Gaiman

It’s been a while since I’ve read a graphic novel, and the first instalment of Neil Gaiman’s series The Sandman has been on my shelves since last summer, so I thought it was high time.

This series is highly acclaimed and has won absolutely tons of awards, including Best Continuing Series, Best Short Story, Best Writer, Best Lettering and Best Penciller/Inker at the Eisner Comic Industry Awards. It’s an absolute powerhouse in the graphic novel genre, and I went into it knowing precisely nothing about the story.

the sandman neil gaiman

The book opens with Roderick Burgess, the leader of a mysterious organisation, conducting a twisted ceremony in his darkened mansion in an attempt to capture Death. Something goes wrong and instead he captures Death’s brother, Dream, aka the Sandman. Not quite sure what to do, Burgess locks the Sandman up in his basement, where he remains for 72 years. During that time strange things to happen to certain people: some can’t wake up, some can no longer fall asleep, others have such terrible dreams that they are too afraid to go to sleep. Eventually Dream breaks free from his prison and sets out to regain his power and restore his kingdom.

This first volume, Preludes and Nocturnes, has at its heart Dream’s quest to find the three items that were stolen from him that will allow him to get back his full strength. There is also a twisted antagonist who is trying to take Dream’s power for himself, and this leads to the culmination of the story, a kind of ‘boss battle’ between the two powerful beings. It’s a fast-paced story, nicely self-contained but with plenty of open ends that make me really really want to read the next instalments.

the sandman neil gaiman

Of course, the artwork is absolutely incredible. I like that all of Dream’s speech is white text in black speech bubbles, and I just love the way the drawings capture the grotesques and gore that frequently appear throughout the story. The part that has really stuck with me is set in a diner, in which John Dee, aka Doctor Destiny, uses his power to capture and mess with a group of random strangers. That whole section is just fucked up. Truly.

I was surprised to discover that The Sandman is set in the DC universe, so there are occasional references to characters including Batman, Superman and the Justice League. I’d be interested to see if and how those connections develop as the story progresses. Could we have Dream facing off against the Justice League? There is also another character I really loved – a totally awesome Goth chick – who shows up towards the end and inspires Dream to have a series of just beautiful epiphanies that round off the story in a truly moving way.

This graphic novel is action-packed, amazingly drawn and often genuinely touching. You really feel for the characters and it leaves you wanting more. I can see why critics and fans absolutely rave about it.

“Through your dreams, my sleeping children, you had a passenger, and you never knew.”

Have you read this book? I’d love to know your thoughts!

Want to read this? You can buy the book here.

What do you think?

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