Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman is a classic of the comics medium, a mainstream series that garnered immense critical acclaim and a devoted fan-base. The writer was allowed to end the series, and his creation Dream, on his own terms in 1996, after which elements of the series continued to appear on occasion in the DC Universe. Gaiman himself returned to flesh out the character’s backstory prior to the series’ events in The Sandman: Overture. Suffice to say the world of Dream of the Endless hasn’t truly been revisited by someone other than his creator for quite some time. This week marks a change to that status with the release of The Sandman Universe Special, which is the primer for an imprint of Vertigo titles set in the world Gaiman spent nearly seven years building.
The special serves as an introduction to the various characters and storylines that will constitute DC’s latest sub-imprint of comic book titles. The comic begins with a framing sequence of Matthew the Raven being sent to search for Dream (the second one, Daniel Hall) who has been missing since the ending of the crossover event Dark Nights Metal. In his search for Dream Matthew, he travels through various individuals’ dreams and in each one encounters the protagonists of the upcoming spin-off series.
Book-ending the special is Lucien dealing with the fallout of Dream abandoning his post as the kingdom begins to fall apart. It serves to set up and conclude the framing narrative for this comic, but there is something deeply moving about Lucien’s situation. His world is falling apart for the second time as a another Dream has now disappeared. Lucien will have to deal with his feelings of abandonment so that he can try and save his home from what seems to be its impending doom.
That will all play out in Spurrier’s series, The Dreaming, with art by Bilquis Evely. Her artwork on the segment that introduces Dora was fantastic and featured creative use of panel borders. Dora represents one of Dream’s past mistakes, so it will be interesting to see how the actions of the original master of the dream realm will effect the present.
The segments introducing the various characters that will headline the imprint’s titles vary in terms of interest. Timothy Hunter returns in a brief appearance that has a horrific twist at the end, but other than that feels fairly conventional. Said twist seems to be the element that will distinguish the new Books of Magic series from prior work on the character and it is promising despite the lackluster preview offered in this issue’s pages.
Erzulie Fréda, the owner of the House of Whispers makes her first appearance, bringing a new element if the supernatural into the Sandman mythology, Voodoo. The interactions between the human family that will be at the center of the upcoming House of Whispers series was entertaining, and shows that the magical series will be grounded in their relationships with one another.
Lucifer is back after the ending of his second Vertigo ongoing series and is lost in some hellish landscape. It was my favorite of the four sequences, and of all them, feels the most like it belongs in the same world as the original Sandman series. With great art and writing it features a moody atmosphere and disturbing visuals that back the intriguing set up for the character’s next big adventure.
It is essentially a preview book for what readers can expect to see in the coming months, but it does create a mystery that will be central to at least one of the new series: why has the lord of dreams left his domain? Considering no answers are provided in this text, this mystery will continue to play out in The Sandman Universe. The new comic line has a direction along with some talented writers and artists. Despite one weak point, the special was an enjoyable read that brings back the magic of The Sandman for a new generation. Well-done Vertigo.
What did you think of The Sandman’s return? Are you excited for any of the new ongoing series debuting this fall? Let us know!