sandman overture 1 coverSANDMAN OVERTURE #1
Writer: Neil Gaiman
Art: JH Williams III
Publisher: Vertigo
Reviewer: Rob Patey (aka Optimous Douche – Ain’t It Cool News)

I came into Gaiman’s brain child completely ass backwards through all the spin-off titles like DEATH, LUCIFER and even Jill Thompson’s adorably macabre THE LITTLE ENDLESS STORYBOOK before I ever read SANDMAN proper. When the book came out I was in high school and my comics needed to reflect my real life desires like weed, girls and driving fast–thank you, Marvel and Image. That switch of soulfulness, the desire to peel back the universe and dissect all of its icky intricacies, still hadn’t matured in my brain. You need that, let’s call it self-actualization, to truly understand all the subtle layers of SANDMAN. Gaiman’s personification of humanity’s drives and desires caressing the main DC universe is a wonder to behold. If you get it, SANDMAN not only makes us think about our existence, but it also forces our favorite heroes to do likewise.

I’ve since rectified my mistake. I’m three volumes into SANDMAN right now and I’m balls deep with the third volume because I’m reading the over-sized annotated edition. SANDMAN OVERTURE, though, welcomes you whether you’ve read any of the prior iterations. This new volume gives you all of the required information if the Endless have never been in your comics repertoire, while at the same time welcoming back old readers with a marvelous facelift.

Where has Sandman been since we’ve last seen him? It thankfully doesn’t matter, meaning the past volumes still awaiting me are a surprise in the making. Actually, the first part of the book doesn’t even focus on our Sandman, but a piece of sentient flora bearing a strange black and white resemblance to our sleepy anti-hero. This lone plant burns inside The Dream, becoming no more and obliterating the prospect of dream for all denizens of this strange world.

That’s right–our Endless don’t control the fates and machinations of existence for all planets. Instead, each self-aware species in the galaxy has their own version of the Endless to keep them company at night, during death and to guide them on their course through destiny. This first chapter ends in sorts where it began, with a convening of all Sandmen, Sandplants and Sandgiants trying to suss out the fate of their fallen brother.

We get hints and inklings throughout the book on where the arc is headed, like a newly redesigned Death – now more Victorian than Marilyn Manson. Her goal is to give her brother Sandman his final fate, if only he weren’t being transported willy-nilly across the galaxy and planes of existence. Her tete-a-tete with Destiny is charming and apropos to highlight her casualness and his constant lamenting of inaction. After all, if destiny just is, then Destiny will be just is as well.

The Corinthian has also made a comeback. His ocular cavities are still chompers and he continues to defy his dream state to bring murder to the real world. Again, though, Sandman is transported away before he can undo what he has wrought upon the world.

In my way-back travels of SANDMAN, I’m only as far as Sam Keith’s work. I didn’t think another artist could tackle this book, especially not one as polished as Williams. I was wrong. Every page of this book is a pinup waiting to adorn your walls. From the subtle moments with The Corinthian to the grandeur of the cosmos and beyond, Williams simply outdid himself upon on every page. Gaiman is a man of many words, yet somehow Williams found a way to let every page breathe through the abandonment of confining panels and other comic conventions.

My words can’t do this book justice. For every moment I anemically truncate, Gaiman expounds with a poetic air. Destiny doesn’t simply introduce himself; he uses the page to convey the pain of his all-knowing yet do nothing existence. The death of flora Sandman is tragic and sublime, and again only takes up one page. Every page of SANDMAN OVERTURE is as haunting as it is engaging – exactly what one would expect from a dream of a comic.