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A Sun Has Gone Insane
on 19 November 2015
Good news. I understood almost all of this, and that has made all of the difference.
POSSIBLE MILD SPOILERS. This book is a collection of all six of the original "Overture" comics. The Overture story has been described as a prequel, of sorts, to the larger and longer Sandman saga, (which appeared over twenty-five years ago and marked Gaiman's big time appearance on the literary stage). While "Sandman" deals with Morpheus, (the Dream King), and all of his siblings, (Desire, Destiny, Death and so on), this prequel features Morpheus almost exclusively, although there are cameos by most of the siblings and other Sandman characters, and a part of the book is given over to Morpheus trying to navigate the rift between his father, (Time), and mother, (Night). This Morpheus story is a stand alone tale, but it explains and enriches many aspects of the later/earlier Sandman saga.
Here's the really good part. I have read a lot of Sandman, not necessarily all of the books and not necessarily in order, and while I've been able to follow some of the story lines I've also completely lost the thread in some places. I still think the series is more fun than just about anything else, even though I know I'm sometimes only getting a fraction of it. BUT, Overture is completely accessible, even if, (or maybe especially if), you don't know the Sandman world. The start is a bit bumpy, of course, but the main arc becomes clear early on, and the subplots flow naturally from that main line. I've read a lot of graphic novels that turn heavily on pretentious and incomprehensible goobledegook, and perhaps the most admirable thing you can say about Gaiman is that he never hides behind such empty baloney. He tells stories first, and goes poetic/vague only when appropriate.
As a special plus, in addition to the strong narrative and the compelling supporting art, this tale has some fine little bits, scenes and throwaways, that give it both depth and a suprising sense of humor. (For example, Dream-Cat has a very appealing dry sense of humor that, from time to time, nicely deflates Dream's pomposity. It's very engaging to see that Gaiman is willing in this work to kid himself and take a joke, and of course that makes the whole effort more appealing.)
Apart from just the general reward of getting what's happening, being able to comprehend the outlines of the story frees the reader up to really appreciate and admire the art work. It just helps a lot when you know what the artist is trying to present, especially when the story and the art work fit together so well and so thoroughly complement and elevate each other. There are some set scenes and some panel series that are just jaw dropping, and there are many arresting shifts in style, coloring and draftsmanship that reflect the shifts in style, color and plot in the narrative itself. (One example: much turns on the star that has gone insane, and the artist does a brilliant job of presenting, in an abstract fashion, exactly what that looks like.) For those interested in such things there is a treasure trove of short articles, Q-and-A's and the like from the author and from Williams, Stewart (colors) and Klein (lettering), that set out in detail and in their very engaging own voices how many of the illustrating and coloring decisions were made.
So, I wanted very much to read this because it's Gaiman, it's Sandman/Morpheus, and it's gorgeous. I did not at all expect to admire and to enjoy it as much as I did; while I may be pretty much a Sandman novice, I put this toward the top of the to-read Sandman list.)
Please note that I received a free advance will-self-destruct-in-x-days Adobe ecopy of this book in exchange for a candid review. Apart from that I have no connection at all to either the author or the publisher of this book.