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If Watchmen is the greatest graphic novel of all time, then a serious case can be made for Neil Gaiman's The Sandman to be the greatest on-going comics series of all time. Running from 1988 to 1996, the series incorporated some 76 issues, collected as ten graphic novels (and more recently, four large-format prestige collections). Although an ongoing series, it was bound together by a long-running story arc that spanned its entire length, and told the story of Morpheus or Dream, one of the seven Endless who are manifestations of universal concepts (the others are Death, Delirium, Desire, Despair, Destiny and Destruction). Preludes and Nocturnes is the first part of the Sandman saga, collecting together the first eight issues of the series.

In 1916, an English sorcerer named Roderick Burgess attempts to capture and constrain Death, so that all humans will become immortal. The spell goes awry, and instead he captures Death's younger brother, Dream. Dream refuses to help Burgess with his quest for immortality and is left imprisoned in a magic circle in the cellar beneath Burgess' home. The absence of Dream is soon felt, as thousands of people across the world slip into a 'sleeping sickness' and cannot wake up. One of these people, a young woman named Unity Kincaid, is even raped and bears a child without ever waking up. Years and then decades pass. Roderick dies of old age and his son Alex takes over as Dream's captor. Finally, in September 1989, Alex accidentally breaks the circle (by driving his wheelchair over it) and Dream is freed. After visiting an original form of vengeance upon his captor, Dream sets about reclaiming the 'tools' of his profession and restoring his realm, the Dreaming, to its former glory.

Preludes and Nocturnes opens the Sandman saga in style, introducing the titular character (who is unusually front-and-centre for the duration of the story: many Sandman stories are notable for not featuring him prominently) and the world he lives in. Gaiman weaves an interesting story here. The Sandman's quest to find his pouch of sand, his gemstone and his helmet is a traditional mythic device, as is the descent into Hell to confront Lucifer to find one of the missing artefacts (this in turn sets up the very end of the series, with Lucifer's vow that, "One day I shall destroy him," setting up future events). At the same time there's a lot of other things going on. Established DC Comics villain Dr. Dee abusing the Sandman's powers to torment a diner full of innocent people is one of the more disturbing things you're going to see in a comic. The story ends with a triumphant Sandman driven strangely morose by his success, and unable to think of something else to do, he goes to feed the pigeons in Greenwich Village, where he meets with his sister Death, probably the most popular character in the series. The collection ends on an upbeat note, as the Sandman begins the task of restoring his realm and his life.

Preludes and Nocturnes is a great story. It's clearly early days for Gaiman and the story creaks a bit in places. It's also rather more obvious than the later, more subtle collections, and the desire for a somewhat plot-driven narrative to hook in the readers means that a lot of the more reflective moments from the later collections are missing. At the same time, revisiting the collection reveals a host of details that crop up again later on, such as an early glimpse of Merv driving a bus (he doesn't reappear until The Kindly Ones, the penultimate collection) and the introduction of Nada, Dream's former lover whom he condemned to Hell for reasons that will later be revealed. The book also wears its influences a bit more obviously than later stories: The Devil Rides Out and the works of Alastair Crowley inform the Burgess sequences, whilst the gates of the Dreaming (the Gates of Horn and Ivory) are straight out of Homer and Virgil. Gaiman's use of established DC characters such as John Constantine and Dr. Dee was also an obvious strategy to attract other DC readers, but for those unfamiliar with the DC Universe, their appearance and the assumption of familiarity is a bit jarring.

Preludes and Nocturnes (***½) is an intruging opening to the series, ranging from mythology to the occult to superheroes (and villains) and back again, taking in multiple times, worlds and characters. It is a powerful work of the imagination, but in places feels constrained by being part of the DC Universe and has a few rough edges, the result of a writer near the start of his career but already showing great promise.
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on 24 March 2013
New to the Sandman series, initial thoughts a little weird, dark, horror or mythology - definitely both and certainly thought provoking, I feel its still with me now even after finishing it last night and first opportunity will start the next volume The Dolls House.

Dream or Morpheus or the sandman is enslaved for 70 years by some cultist or wizard, in this time people all over the world suffer some don't wake, others can't sleep or dream at all. When finally he escapes he goes all out for revenge but first he must get his tools back and his power. His travels take him to familiar ground in Gotham City and the Arkham Ayslum where he must fight an insane villain and to John Constantine the supernatural investigator.

Dream is a cool character, a throw back to the days of the The Cure and The Cult, a dead ringer for Robert Smith and his trip to Hell to battle for his helm was surprising and excellent. Along with the introduction of his sister Death, not the grim reaper but an untraditional goth chick who holds nothing back, Gaiman must have been a big fan of the early 80's rock & punk scene as both characters belong there.

Quite simply I was fascinated by this in a different way to a good fantasy novel and glad to say I have rediscovered the Graphic Novel.
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on 24 June 2014
We weren't sure what to expect from The Sandman, as we've only read one of Neil Gaiman's books - The Graveyard Book, but we loved it.
It starts with a group of men who try to summon Death in order to eradicate death, but they end up summoning her brother, Dream. They steal his three tools: his helm, a pouch of sand and a ruby, and imprison him for 70 years. This has grave consequences, as people fall asleep and are trapped in their dreams.
When Dream breaks free, he sets off on a quest to reclaim his stolen items. He is briefly helped by John Constantine, and encounters several characters from the DC world. To be honest, this threw us a bit because we didn't know it was set in the DC world, so it did seem a little strange.
So plot-wise, it's a basic object-finding quest, but Dream does visit Hell, which is always a bonus. It is quite dark in places, which is what we loved most about it. You have to wait until the end to meet his sister, Death, and we'd like to see more of her and the rest of the Endless. We will definitely buy the next one.
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on 31 December 2013
It's an interesting transition from reading books to reading a graphic novel. It is not as easy to get into the story nor understand what's happening. Also using a kindle means you can't view it as easily (even with the frame zoom option as the frames aren't the same shapes). But as these novels are quite short I think you are meant to read it more than once, in which case you can focus on the pictures a bit better.

The characters where interesting and the story was decent. Probably not the best thing I have read, but from the reviews this one isn't the best of the series so I will continue as the experience was a good one - especially since I can see what characters are meant to look like (when I read my characters don't have a physical form but instead just a suggestion of their personality - and whatever form my head applies to that personality, not sure if that makes sense).
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on 22 February 1999
Beginning with a Gothic horror tale about an ambitious mage attempting to capture Death, 'Preludes & Nocturnes' shows the evolution one of the best and most original comic series ever to appear. Neil Gaiman's stories of the Dream King and the lives he affects are always literate, often disturbing and sometimes moving. Each page is rendered in beautiful and bloody artwork by the three artists and Dave McKean's brilliant cover art is reproduced with each story. It is in the final story 'The Sound of Her Wings' that the book hints at the ground-breaking direction the series was taking. The portrait of Dream's relationship with his elder sister Death is both touching and recognisable to any mortal with a family. A fine introduction to an astonishing body of work.
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on 10 July 2016
This is in comic format. I found it unreadable on my Kindle and gave up. It may be great but I shall never know.
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on 22 October 2014
The stories contained in this volume are good. I like Neil Gaiman and enjoy most of his novels. I only gave this a 3 star review due to the artwork of the book. I think this would be a much better book if the artwork was more serious and dark. If Dave Mckean did the artwork throughout all of the books like he did with Arkham Asylum it would have been such a fantastic book. However, the colours are very bright and in your face, the artwork is a bit childish and for me it took away the effect of the adult themes and dark unertones of the story. If a Demon doesn't look scary, it isn't a very good demon for me.
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on 24 March 2016
Absolutely amazing.
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on 30 May 2013
After watching Oblivion at the cinema I have become interested in graphic novels. I did some reading of reviews and product description and settled for The Sandman.
It was very well drawn and coloured, not to forget to mention the lettering. Great work!, Also a good plot line and twist in the tale.
I would recommend this graphic novel to anyone and will be booking the next one on the kindle. It reads better on a large tablet as the smartphone is too small for reading.
Thanks for the experience.
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on 21 February 2015
The first story arc is more DC, its the 2nd story that it finds its footing, some stories are incredible and original and despite the dated drawings, the characters look great and original
But only in certain stories - going to hell, giving the key to hell
Not everything is memorable
I find Sandman quite dull as a character, most people find him enigmatic, i was waiting for him to develop but he stays kind of on the same plain
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