“Try Something New.” That challenge is the whole reason for this feature’s existence. Month in and month out we buy the comics we know and love, the ones we look forward to every time but there are countless series that travel under our radar, ones that we just don’t give a chance and get passed by. That’s why I made a vow: every week I’d pick up an issue for a series that wasn’t on my pull-list in the hopes of finding a hidden gem. Welcome to Off The Shelf where we’ll discover if my leap of faith paid dividends this week. Also, I should mention that there be SPOILERS in this review. You are warned!
The Sandman: Overture #1Publisher
Neil Gaiman and J.H. Williams III
Prior Experience With Title
I have never read a single Sandman story so the character is pretty much a mystery for me. I actually know more about his sister than I do of him as I have read Death: The High Cost of Living which I thought was utterly fantastic.
Why Did I Give It A Shot?
Everyone always says how good Sandman is so I thought I’d see what all the fuss was about. Also, J.H. Williams III delivers mind-blowingly awesome art every time he illustrates and I’m a huge fan of his work.
The issue begins on another planet where carnivorous plants with “limited mobility but beautiful minds” dwell. One such plant named Quorian is dreaming and as it dreams another plant resembling Dream of the Endless sprouts up behind it. Dream states that he knows something is wrong before bursting into flames and dying, awaken Quorian from its dream. We shift to Earth (London to be more specific) in the year 1915. We are quickly introduced to a mysterious character called the Corinthian, a character who prefers to wear sunglasses for some reason. He approaches a bookkeeper, Ian Stuart, and sets a meeting with him for later on with the promise of revealing news from his brother. The entire scene plays out brilliantly as each panel forms a tooth with the full two-page spread forming one giant mouth, something that will be more significant as we go along. Another shift takes us to the Endless known as Destiny who is reading from a very special book that knows everything that has been or will be. He summons his sister Death but cannot recall why. She explains that he called her there because she wanted him to. She needs advice on Dream for she has just reaped him but he doesn’t realize it yet and she wonders is she should tell him. Destiny advises against it. Yet another interesting sequence as the entire scene is framed as if it was merely pictures in a book. We are then introduced to George Portcullis (not his real name but he can’t recall what it is or even if he is a man in reality) who suffers from a recurring dream. In the dream he manages an office for an owner who never makes an appearance. But today is not like any other day as his master finally arrives…a master who is revealed to be none other than Dream himself. Dream then summons the Corinthian before he can meet the hapless Ian Stuart and informs the Corinthian that he wants to talk. The Corinthian takes off his glasses and we see that where his eyes should be are a set of teeth in each eye socket. Dream tells him that creations of his such as the Corinthian should only interact with sleepers and dreamers, not walk around in the real world killing mortals for pleasure like he has been doing. Dream informs him that he must uncreate him but suddenly Dream’s gem that he is wearing glows and he leaves immediately. The Corinthian will not wait to meet his fate and proceeds to escape and continue his killing spree though. The issue ends with Dream traveling to the throne room of the Endless, suiting up for battle, before being literally torn away to meet countless other incarnations of Dream waiting for him in a stunning foldout four-page spread.
Dream: I have been walking through the dreams of the inhabitants of this world, and finding nothing wrong. And yet there is something very wrong. More wrong than anything I have encountered. I refuse to permit this.
Narrator: Imagine a book. Imagine a book that contains everything that is happening, everything that has happened, everything that will happen. There is nothing that exists that is not written in this book. The book is heavy. It is bound in leather, made from the hide of a beast that has never existed. The only eyes that read this book are blind. They see only darkness and the contents of the book.
Dream: It is hard to create things. We have such high hopes for our creations. When I made you, I wished only to build something that would reflect humanity–would show it itself, show it everything about itself that it did not want to acknowledge.
The Corinthian: I have done my best…
Dream: You have done your worst, Corinthian, which was in so many ways exactly what I had hoped.
George: Excuse me? Sir? What are we going to do?
The Corinthian: I’m going to kill a young man behind a public house, and before he is dead, I intend to eat his eyeballs. And then I’m going to run. I’m going to run run run as fast as I can, and I’m not going to stop running until I’ve reshaped the world to look like me. You can do whatever you wish, George.
Dream: And I am pulled halfway across the universe in one fraction of forever, with a pain that feels like birth… I tell myself, I am Dream of the Endless. I am Dream. And I am prepared for whatever awaits me.
Final Verdict: This comic was simply a stunning visual masterpiece. It was also rather new reader friendly though I got the sense that there were a lot of Easter Eggs for those that have followed Gaiman’s creation previously. Storywise, it captured my imagination and I can’t wait to see how all these various plotlines and mysteries play out. Thusly, I’m going to Add It To My Pull-List. The long wait for the second issue begins now…