Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Neil Gaiman's The Sandman: Overture - familiar and fresh

The Sandman returns 20 years after I was first introduced to this fantasy-horror series with Neil Gaiman at the helm again in a new mini-series titled OVERTURE, to help mark the 25th anniversary of the book.

If you’ve been around comics for a while, you recognize the critically-acclaimed, award-winning and commercially successful series and its creators (Gaiman, Sam Keith, Mike Dringenberg) as iconic for the era of storytelling they helped to usher in with this book.

But even if you’ve never read a single issue or were only a casual reader of it back in the ‘90s, I recommend this new mini-series if your taste in comics dips into the realm of speculative fiction or dark fantasy.

A lot has already been written about this highly anticipated book and a lot more will be added once people have a chance to read this gorgeous first issue, which arrives in stores today. So I will only say this story tells the tale leading into very the first issue of the original series which debuted in 1989, an early wave of the invasion of British creators crashing upon the shores helping to launch the Vertigo brand with its suite of mind-bending books to warp impressionable minds.

I followed this book for nearly two years as it was drawing to a close. Season of Mists was my initial foray into this world. It’s been so long since I’ve read anything to do with these characters, and because I'm not a disciple of the cult of The Sandman or Gaiman, it almost feels like I'm approaching this as a first-timer. For instance, I don’t know if the interesting reveal at the end of this issue is new or known to long-time fans.

Gaiman’s writing is lyrical, especially in the opening pages, and is accompanied with interior art by the masterful J.H. WiIliams III. The story is well-crafted on many levels, approachable to everyone from newcomers to long-time readers. It does not appear to pre-suppose you know anything about the cast or the story from its 75-issue run in order to enjoy, so you can come to the book cold. However, if you have even only a passing knowledge of the characters, it will feel warm and familiar.

At $5, it’s priced on the high end. But when you consider how many $3 of $4 books you probably rip through in a couple of minutes, this “extra-sized” first issue is worth your entertainment dollar. Regular price will be $4.00 for issue 2 and on.

Is Damian alive or am I Dreaming?

Sandman Overture #1

Whether or not you're a fan of the original books, Sandman Overture #1 is enjoyable if you like very unique storytelling. Just like the original books, the pages in this first issue of Overture seem surreal and intricate in presentation, both in storytelling and artwork.

The first issue of Sandman Overture opens with a brief history of far away planet. On this planet exist carnivorous, mildly sentient plants. While dreaming, one of these plants encounters a tall, twisted, familiar black and white plant. This black and white plant expresses an uneasiness in the dreams of this planet, right before erupting into flames. Certainly an interesting look at what is to come.

Some familiar faces show up including Destiny, Death, Merv and Lucien, and the Corinthian, though first time readers don't necessarily need to understand who these characters are to be able to follow the story. Gaiman does a good job at not overcomplicating who these characters are and what their relationships might be.

It should be interesting to finally uncover just where Dream was before his capture, as well as why he was weak enough to be captured in the first place. Ideally, this six issue bi-monthly story ends where the original Sandman books started. Complimenting Gaiman's writing is the art by JH Williams III and Dave Stewart, which is pretty astounding. This is one of the nicest looking titles, and probably one of the more visually diverse, that's been on shelves this month. Maybe even all year. The four page spread at the end is incredible as well.

All in all, it looks like fans old and new have something great to look forward to with his new installment of Sandman.

Damian Son Of Batman #1

Finally, a look at an older Damian Wayne filling his father's boots. Damian Son of Batman takes place in the future (and likely not in continuity) where Batman has been taken out of the picture presumably by the Joker. With his father's death weighing on his shoulders, Damian must take of the mantle of Batman and clean up Gotham his own way.

Of course, Batman and Damian always had rather contrasting brands of justice to deal, which raises questions of morality and legacy. Will Damian do things his own way? Or will he finally adopt his fathers' more lenient practices? Only one issue in, and Son of Batman looks like it's going to be a fun character piece on Damian.

Andy Kubert is on story and art for this book. A master of the craft, Kubert does a great job with both tasks. Son of Batman is as much fun to read as it is to look at. The pace of this book is quite quick as well. Kubert also sneaks in a quick look at Damian's origin story as well, allowing new readers unfamiliar with the character to understand why Batman has a son, and just where he came from.

We get to see a few familiar faces in Gotham's rogues gallery, as well as Damian's parents and the League of Assassins. Ra's Al Ghul gives Damian some advice warrior to warrior, making for a fun little moment, of which this book is full of. Damian Son of Batman is definitely recommended for fans of the Bat-Books, and for those who want a fun new Damian story to enjoy.

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