The Sandman Vol 1: Preludes and Nocturnes by Neil Gaiman

The Sandman Vol 1: Preludes and Nocturnes by Neil Gaiman, Sam Keith (Illustrator), Mike Dringenberg (Illustrator), Malcolm Jones III (Illustrator)‏

The Sandman, as imagined by Neil Gaiman, is an iconic run of graphic novels that is rightfully held in high regard. The first volume, Preludes and Nocturnes, began life 25 years ago, but you wouldn't know it. The writing is not perfect, the art is inconsistent, but you have to start somewhere, and when compared against the other stuff out there, the start of The Sandman is pretty darn good.

The story follows the Lord of Dreams (who is also known as the Sandman, Morpheus, Dream, and a bunch of other different names that different cultures have given him throughout time). He is one of the Endless (along with Death, Destiny, Destruction, Desire, Despair and Delirium), and the story begins with him being imprisoned and stripped of the tools of his office by a bunch of humans who were trying to capture Death. Preludes and Nocturnes covers the story of Dream's 70 years of imprisonment, his escape from imprisonment, and his journey to reclaim the tools of his office.

This first volume is relatively straightforward, an introduction where we get to know Dream, learn about his kingdom, and begin to understand how this universe fits together. If you didn't know, The Sandman is a DC property, so from time to time the story makes use of DC heroes and villains such as John Constantine and Dr Jonathan Crane (also known as The Scarecrow), and an attempt is made in the early chapters to turn Dream into a regular DC superhero. But as the chapters progress,Gaiman starts to steer his world away from the mainstream DC universe and carves out his own little corner of the universe where he can tell stories without having to be restricted by other DC stories.

As I mentioned before, the art in this volume is inconsistent. There appears to be a lot of uncertainty in the art style, and the first penciller Sam Keith left after a handful of issues. That said, there is some fantastic art scattered throughout the book, from Dream's tools of the trade, to some scary depictions of the locales in Hell.

All of the stories in this volume have their strengths and weaknesses, they are all high quality, but the epilogue story "A Death In The Family" is an exception, a truly great story where everything came together to explore a chilling day in the life of Death. This is one of the best single issues of a comic that I have ever read, and it is the first time I think you have an opportunity to understand why The Sandman has so much love and respect.

From my perspective, The Sandman is essential reading, and you really should start at the beginning. Preludes and Nocturnes is far from the best that The Sandman has to offer, but what it offers is still fantastic, and I can easily recommend it to any fantasy reader. In the words of Neil Gaiman - "Preludes and Nocturnes: a little night music from me to you."

9/10 The Sandman is essential reading.

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