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on 17 July 2016
One of the best stories I've read ever, let alone this year.

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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on 20 February 2015
The story is of course excellent - it's not my favourite of the series but still deserves the 5 stars.

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.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 1 June 2014
Expensive but deserves its classic status. The artwork is very dated but the colours have been redone for trade paperback form and look much better than they did originally.

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.
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on 20 April 2017
Amazing book and great seller. I totaly recomend them.
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on 29 May 2017
After Watchmen this is the first time in years that I encounter a graphic novel capable of having the emotional, stylistic range of classic literature. This should be studied at school not even kidding. Absolutely fantastic.
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on 22 December 2016
I'm on book 5 now and still loving it.
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on 5 July 2017
Bought as a gift for my son who really appreciated it.
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on 16 December 2014
I read this one some 10 years or so ago when I was slowly returning to comics and, having re-read it now, I still maintain that Preludes and Nocturnes is a poor place to start with this series - though it’s a decent book.

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!
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on 23 September 2012
I'm a big fan of Neil Gaiman's novels and television work, so I decided to branch out and give his Sandman series a go. I'm not a comic book/graphic novel reader at all - the last time I picked up a comic, it was an Archie one, if that tells you anything? - so I started reading Preludes and Nocturnes without any real idea of what to expect. Hopefully if you're in the same boat as me - comic book ignoramus with an interest in reading more of Gaiman's work - this review may be helpful to you.

First off, Sandman is just as fantastic as everyone has told you it is. It's macabre and madcap and thoughtful and sometimes just flat-out, unashamedly poetic. I hadn't realised comics could be so thoroughly lyrical, but there are times I've sat there reading and just been blown away by how beautiful it all is. Sandman reminded me a lot of American Gods and Anansi Boys, at times, but it also stands on its own as an original and really excellent piece of work. If you can get hold of the whole series and bunker down for a long reading session, I highly recommend that you do. You won't regret it.

That said, I've got to be honest: I didn't like Preludes and Nocturnes.

Preludes and Nocturnes plants the seeds of the bigger stories that follow. It also introduces us to our main protagonist Dream of the Endless, reveals the tragic and eerie world of the series, and also gives us our first meeting with Death (who is awesome, so awesome). But as a whole its the weakest volume of the series. The writing is really hit and miss - Gaiman admits in the volume that he thinks is a lot of it is not his best work, as he was still getting the hang of writing a serial comic, and he's dead right. There are also a number of 'guest stars' in the volume, who I think are well-known comic book characters, and I felt they detracted from the original feel of the story. The violence in Preludes is also pretty off the scale. This may not bother a lot of readers - if so, more power to you! - but there were particular moments when I felt sure I was going to toss my cookies.

But it's worth bracing yourself and working your way through Preludes, because what follows is absolutely worth the effort. Once you begin reading Doll's House, you'll be hooked. Guaranteed.
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on 22 December 2004
These first 8 Sandman stories establish the character, how he came to be incarcerated through most of the twentieth century - and some of the damage resulting in the mortal realm. Don't be put off by the early artwork; Sandman's artists took time to catch up with Gaiman's writing, and began to mesh properly towards the end of this volume.
This incarnation of the Sandman is *the* Sandman: Dream of the Endless, the king of the realm of dream and nightmare.
Seeking to capture Death, an order of magicians in Wych Cross, England accidentally snare Death's younger brother, Dream, in "Sleep of the Just". They seal him within an airless glass cage, then attempt to parley: his freedom in exchange for immortality, power, and his promise not to retaliate. But Dream is of the Endless; while time passes no more quickly for him than for mortals, he has *all* of it at his disposal - and a temper like an angry god rising from the bottom of the sea. The artwork has weaknesses, particularly in depicting Dream himself, but Gaiman's writing is magnificent, opening deeper mysteries in passing. For the elements of his spell, how did the magus steal a song from dirt, or a feather from an angel's wing? How did Dream come to be in such a weakened condition that a petty spell could snare him?
Gaiman's excellence as a writer shines through, as he creates depth with layer after layer of consequences to actions, planting the seeds of future stories as he does so.
The damage done to the mortal realm is unfolded gradually, by showing several people who had unusual qualities as dreamers, and what happened to them in the years after Dream's capture in June 1916: a real-life "sleeping sickness" epidemic; a thirteen-year-old who lied about his age to enlist, and now in Verdun cannot sleep; Unity Kinkaid, who falls into near-endless sleep. Gaiman even fits the first Sandman (Wesley Dodds the crimefighter) into the mosaic, as the universe, knowing that *someone* is missing, attempts to replace him. We also see the changes in the magicians' order over the decades, as the magus' son and heir carries on.
Naturally, damage was also done to Dream's own realm, which we see both in this volume and the next. The next few PRELUDES AND NOCTURNES deal with Dream's return to the Dreaming: taking stock of which dreams have escaped into the mortal realm (later tracked down in THE DOLL'S HOUSE), then going after the tools stolen from him by the magicians, lost decades before when the magus' mistress Ethel Dee ran away with 200000 pounds, several powerful artifacts, and the second-in-command.
Dream inventories his realm in "Imperfect Hosts"; many of the dreams correspond to other Marvel comics, such as the brothers Cain and Abel, who are also an interpretation of the figures of legend. (In the mortal realm, Ethel Dee seeks out her son in none other than the Arkham Asylum.) The artwork on Dream is still finding its way. The one-who-is-three - maiden/mother/crone - enters the storyline here, but her/their graphic depiction is *AWFUL* (*all* other issues of Sandman in which they appear have better treatment), although their shuffling positions between frames is established here. (That would have been Gaiman's script, though, not the artist.) They give Dream enigmatic clues to the whereabouts of the pouch of sand (last purchased by John Constantine); the helm (traded by the renegade magician to a demon decades ago); and the ruby (passed by Ethel Dee to her son, long since captured by the League of Justice).
Still debilitated from his long imprisonment, and wanting more information about the more-than-human Justice League before confronting them, Dream begins by seeking out John Constantine, in "Dream a Little Dream of Me". Even the pouch of sand, the least powerful of Dream's tools, has destroyed more than one mortal life. Constantine's viewpoint carries an undercurrent of music, all songs with dream imagery, beginning days before Dream crosses his path. We also meet Mad Hettie for the first time, a street person who knows far more than most about *real* life, and who really *is* 247. Dream's graphic depiction begins improving a little here as Gaiman experiments a little, with Constantine rather than Dream narrating.
In "A Hope in Hell", Dream confronts the Morningstar, in our first encounter with Gaiman's take on Lucifer. The distortions in mythology - Lucifer's "co-rulers" - weren't Gaiman's error, but were introduced for consistency with another comic that was to be set here. Gaiman managed to square this with Lucifer's character development later on. Here we first encounter Nada, Dream's unforgiven ex-lover, imprisoned for 10,000 years - something we understand better after "Tales in the Sand" in THE DOLL'S HOUSE. Hope is the major theme running through this issue: Dream's hopes for the meeting, Nada's hopes of freedom.
The quest for the ruby, the tool into which Dream placed the greater part of his power long ago, runs over 3 chapters, beginning in "Passengers". Dream only deals with two members of the Justice League, 'Scott Free' and the last Martian; the latter's perception of Dream underscores his standing outside humanity as an entity known to all cultures. Nevertheless, Ethel Dee's son retrieves the ruby before Dream does.
"24 Hours" is both horror story and character study; the ruby's power not only permits Dee to torment the diner's customers, but to force them to reveal their deepest secrets. Dream's battle for the ruby forms the chapter "Sound and Fury". While ordinarily no mortal could stand against Dream, the ruby allows Dee to turn Dream's own power against him.
"Sound of Her Wings" was first advertised as "A Death in the Family", as we finally encounter the one of the Endless the magi *really* wanted to trap: Dream's elder sibling, Death, as he walks beside her through a day of *her* work.
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