Sandman: Preludes and Nocturnes Paperback – 25 Jun 2010
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"Wake up, sir. We're here". It's a simple enough opening line--although not many would have guessed back in 1991 that this would lead to one of the most popular and critically acclaimed comics of the second half of the century.
In Preludes and Nocturnes, Neil Gaiman weaves the story of a man interested in capturing the physical manifestation of Death but who instead captures the King of Dreams. By Gaiman's own admission there's a lot in this first collection that is awkward and ungainly--which is not to say there are not frequent moments of greatness here. The chapter "24 Hours" is worth the price of the book alone; it stands as one of the most chilling examples of horror in comics. And let's not underestimate Gaiman's achievement of personifying Death as a perky, overly cheery, cute goth girl! All in all, there is a roguish breaking of new ground in this book which is preferable to the often dull precision of the concluding volumes of the Sandman series. --Jim Pascoe --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From the Inside Flap
NEW YORK TIMES bestselling author Neil Gaiman's transcendent series SANDMAN is often hailed as the definitive Vertigo title and one of the finest achievements in graphic storytelling. Gaiman created an unforgettable tale of the forces that exist beyond life and death by weaving ancient mythology, folklore and fairy tales with his own distinct narrative vision.
In PRELUDES & NOCTURNES, an occultist attempting to capture Death to bargain for eternal life traps her younger brother Dream instead. After his seventy-year imprisonment and eventual escape, Dream, also known as Morpheus, goes on a quest for his lost objects of power. On his arduous journey Morpheus encounters Lucifer, John Constantine, and an all-powerful madman. This book also includes the story "The Sound of Her Wings," which introduces us to the pragmatic and perky goth girl Death.
Collecting issues #1-8, this new edition of PRELUDES & NOCTURNES features the improved production values and coloring from the Absolute Edition.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
This review is more on the kindle version, which I bought in addtion to my exsiting print copy. I sopped reading this on my paperwhite - although it will expand the panels for you I found it was still to small to make out clearly and not as enjoyable in black and white. I downloaded it to my iPad instead and found the colour and larger screen much more reader friendly.
So in short I would reccommend only buying the kindle version if you have a tablet to read it on (or plan to use a PC) rather than a paperwhite or kindle touch.
It is difficult to give a feel for the highly imaginative writing and images. It could be described as a fantasy of the personification of dreams and other forces called the Endless which are like gods or archetypes. Constantine from Hellblazer makes an appearance.
My first time around, I read Sandman totally out of sequence starting with Vol 3, then Vol 5, then a couple more volumes (I was just grabbing whatever was on the shelves that week!) and I read Vol 1 towards the end thinking what an unimpressive first volume it was.
I’d recommend someone looking to understand the brilliance of this series to start with the standalone books, Vol 3 and Vol 6 rather than with Vol 1 - those are much more representative of why people love Sandman so much.
Alright - enough prelude! Onto the… nocturnes… ?
Set in the early 20th century, an Aleister Crowley-esque type tries to summon Death and gain immortality - except he botches the spell and gets Dream instead. Dream is imprisoned for 70 years until he escapes and begins to resume his role in the universe. But first he must gather his instruments: his helm, his dreamstone, and his bag of sand.
My biggest complaint of this book is the same criticism I have for a lot of Neil Gaiman’s work: the pacing is much too slow. But this is especially pronounced in a comic! Gaiman’s style was - and is - that of a long-winded storyteller who can spin a good yarn but will not be rushed and this can lead to a much less exciting read.
Not only that but he comes from the Alan Moore school of writing comics where each page is severely bogged down with blocks of text. Though, unlike Moore, its more clumsy in this one and feels like Gaiman is still learning to write comics by trying to make his novelistic approach fit a different genre and not quite succeeding.
That and Gaiman clearly hasn’t found his voice yet. The first volume is very horror-centric in sharp contrast to the rest of the series which leaves this hackneyed approach behind to successfully blend fantasy, the cosmic, and Gaiman’s own style into something unique. It’s a bit of a muddle to wade through which is why it’s a bit unfortunate that this is the first volume where a lot of people will start and which is bound to put some readers off from sampling the rest of this excellent series.
You can also see Gaiman relying a bit too much on the DC Universe in this first volume whereas later - though some DCU characters and locations crop up now and then - Sandman’s original cast becomes the central focus. Arkham Asylum puts in a cameo where we meet Jonathan Crane aka Scarecrow, and, as Dream sets about collecting his necessaries, he encounters John Constantine, Martian Manhunter, and Etrigan.
We also meet a lot of new characters who will go on to become quite beloved by the fans: Cain and Abel, Lucien, the Hecateae, Lucifer Morningstar (who will get his own spin-off title), and, arguably the most popular character Gaiman’s ever created, Death, Dream’s sister (who also gets a couple of standalone books).
Besides introducing characters, Gaiman’s first go at Sandman indicates the kind of series it will become. While Gaiman references earlier incarnations of the character like the 1930s Wesley Dodds Sandman (Dream’s helm looks a lot like Dodds’ gas mask), and a dream sequence drawn in a Jack Kirby style (a nod to the 1970s Kirby Sandman), Gaiman’s Sandman is decidedly more modern and set in a richly imaginative world.
Beginning to distance itself from the DCU, Gaiman’s Sandman goes to Hell, he battles an evil magician across space and time, and, more importantly, he begins to explore the potential of dreams. This is the reason behind the series’ success: dreams. Because ANYTHING can happen in a dream meaning anything can happen in this series and you can see Gaiman beginning to realise that potential in this book. In one particular dream sequence the art switches to pure Kirby so we suddenly get a three-page Fourth World-esque strip out of nowhere!
I know some people don’t like Sam Kieth’s art in this book and, to be honest, when I first read this I didn’t much care for it either. But I’ve since read Kieth’s The Maxx and come to a new appreciation of his style. His art in this book is more restrained than in The Maxx but he brings the fantastic when he needs to and the kind of bizarre comics he creates is a good fit for the type of comic Sandman is aiming for. Mike Dringenberg and Malcolm Jones III’s art is also very good though, going back to the horror theme, there’s far too much black on the pages.
There’s a lot to like about this first volume: a lot of ideas and imagination swirling together, some great episodes like Dream going to Hell and meeting Lucifer, or John Dee’s 24 hour nightmare issue in the diner, and Dream and Death’s first scene together. But there’s a lot of chaff here too and it’s less like reading a comic and feels too often like reading an illustrated book.
Sandman Vol 1 might not be a great comic but it leads into a great series and, if you weren’t that impressed after reading this and was wondering what all the fuss is about, keep going because it gets a lot better very quickly. Better yet, skip Vol 1 entirely and come back to it later!
So, here's the thing. I'm not a huge reader of comics or graphic novels. In fact, I can honestly say, I've only read a handful of them, very carefully selected or recommended by people I know and trust. However, with this series...it was a mood. I was in the mood to delve into the world of graphic novels, but not the usual Superman, Batman stuff, and The Sandman series happen to be one of the top rated series of all times. I went for it on a whim. Ordered the whole thing! Crazy, I know, for someone who's never even been interested in this type of thing.
Once the set arrived, I immediately began reading the first installment, which seemed to be a collection of seven issues. I was amazed at how engrossed I became in the happenings of Morpheus - Lord of Dreams - and his captivity and all that it led to. It was such a dark and thrilling tale, going off on tangents here and there, only to have it all tied up and connected quite nicely in the end. When I finished it, I reached out for the second book, but stopped myself. It was so good, a world so brilliantly created, that I wanted to prolong it for as long as I possibly could. The only way I knew how to do that was to spread out the readings rather than devour them all at once. So I picked up another book, and forced myself out of this world, with the knowledge that I will be back there soon.
The series begins in the 1900s with Roderick Burgess, a man who dabbles with magic, as he attempts to summon and capture Death in order to achieve immortality, only to find that he had instead captured Dream. With no way out of the circle of dark magic that Burgess created, Dream is unable to free himself and therefore decides to bide his time until a time when he can, knowing that eventually, Burgess will have to slip somehow. However, it isn't Roderick Burgess who slips, but his son - after his death. When Roderick dies, his son Alexander carries on his father's imprisonment of Dream, not knowing what else he could possibly do. After almost a century of captivity, 70 or so years to be exact, Alexander inadvertently breaks the spell that holds Dream in the circle allowing him to access the sleep of his captors and free himself, punishing them in the process. And what greater punishment is there than to have them live in a constant nightmare for the rest of their lives?
As Dream proceeds to return to his Dream realm, he finds that a lot has changed in the years he's been gone. His world has been destroyed, some people have been caught in a coma of dreams and his 3 totem of powers have gone missing. He realizes he cannot fix anything until he gains back his totem of powers, and so begins the search for them as he travels to restore his power one piece at a time.
What a dark and mysterious world, and what incredible character development. You can tell that this installment is meant to act as a backdrop to the rest of the series, introducing us to Dream and other characters and slowly setting us up for what's coming next. The end of this book brings us face to face with none other than Death...Dream's older sister. Yes, Death is a female and is a sassy, young and attractive one to boot, and you can tell that she will be playing a very integral role in the parts to come.
Neil Gaiman slowly builds up Dream's characters, allowing us to see bits and pieces of him, one story at a time. Although strangely alluring, there's also something dark and twisted about him. You root for him, but you're not sure why. You realize there's more to him and it's not all good.
He's a hero, but a flawed one for sure.
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