Thursday, 25 June 2009

The Absolute Sandman vol. 1 - Neil Gaiman

Thanks to my awesome library, I've been able to finally read this first volume of The Absolute Sandman. A comic series that's almost a legend, a cult among those in the know.
I had read some individual issues found on secondhand stalls, and also the beautiful novella The Dream Hunters.
But this is the real deal, where everything begins. And I loved it.
There were three major narrative arches:
- "Preludes and Nocturnes"
- "The Doll's House"
- "Dream Country"
If I had to choose a favourite, it would be "The Doll's House", although I loved every single story in its own right.
It wasn't anything I expected, primarily because it was so eclectic.
Sandman for one, is ever-changing. At the beginning he appears trapped in a human-conjured prison, and it takes him years to free himself. When eventually he manages to break free, he finds that his dreamworld has changed, that Nature has created other Sandmen to fill the gap left, and that he has to fight to regain his absolute power.
It's not what I expected from Dream. In my mind he was somewhat intimidating. Unreadable. Even invincible. He's an Immortal, after all. Lord of the Dreams. While here, at the very beginning, he's weak and powerless. It takes time to track down his tools - the pouch, the helmet, the ruby - and even after he's done, he feels empty, as if after achieving his goals he doesn't have anything left to do.
It wasn't something I had expected, but it was fascinating.

Also, I didn't think it would be a horror comic. I thought it would lean more on the fantasy side. But some stories are definitely scarier and gorier than what I thought they would be. Take "24 hours" for example. Or "Collectors". These stories, and their atmospheres reminded me a lot of an Italian comic series I used to read as a tween/teenager and which is still printed, called Dylan Dog. Dark Horse apparently has published some issues in English. If you can get hold of them, I highly recommend them, by the way.

As I was saying, one of its most striking feature was its diversity. Because if some stories are horror, some others were completely different. "Tales in the Sand" is a version of the myth of Sandman seen through an African perspective. "Men of good fortune" is a story of a man in the 14th century, who doesn't believe in death, and he's granted the gift of immortality, as a sort of game between Dream and Death. Then "A dream of a thousand cats" is a story showing us cats' view of the world, which is not pleasant nor cute.
There was so much into these stories, I find it hard to review it without failing to mention some great things about them. What I can say is that for a week or two, this volume sat by my nightstand, granting me one bedtime story, each night. I figured it was fitting for a comic all about dreams:) And it was a moment I looked forward to.(Although I wouldn't recommend it at night-time to the faint-hearted. It was, after all, a horror comic, at times!)
About the art...at first I wasn't too impressed . The stories made up for it, though.
Then with "The Doll's House" it really takes off. Some stuff was wonderful, especially the visualisation of people's dreams. I loved them.
Also, of course I have to mention all the fantastic extra material which would make any fan drool: the initial original Sandman proposal, the provisional sketches, the characters outline, and then the surprisingly-funny-to-read script for "A midsummer Night's Dream".

It pains me to bring this back to the library, but I have to let other people enjoy it too.
Thankfully, I have volume 2 ready to go:)

other bloggers' reviews:
Firefly
Stuff as dreams are made on (Preludes and Nocturnes)
Andi of Tripping Towards Lucidity (Preludes and Nocturnes)
Chain Letters (Doll's House)
Dewey (Preludes and Nocturnes)
Debi (Preludes and Nocturnes)

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7 comments:

Memory said...

I really love the idea of reading an issue before bed every night. I usually devour each story arc in one big clump, but I think I may have to give that a go next time I read these!

Fyrefly said...

I don't think I could read this before bed - issues involving the Corinthian, especially. *shudder*

Personally, I think it gets better as you go - particularly as you get to see more and more of the other Endless. I also thought Volume 1 was the most "horror"-ish out of all of them.

Nymeth said...

I agree with Fyrefly - it's only the first volume that's more to the horror side. I guess I'd classify the whole thing as dark fantasy, but fear not, it never gets as disturbing as "24 Hours" again for the rest of the series!

You're so right about the diversity. That's one of the reasons why I love it.

Kailana said...

I wish my library would get this. They only have bits and pieces of the series. I would love to read the entire thing, but since I didn't love the first book, I am not in a huge hurry to buy.

Gayla said...

Hello~
I had to stop by and say Hello after reading your comments on Stephanies blog, and I'm glad I did.
I've not read a book like this but you really have my curiosity up. I live in Las Vegas and the chances of them having this series is good. I'm going to check it out. But I agree with some of the others, in that I don't think I could read it at night before bed...LOL.

Great blog!
Gayla

celine said...

Gawd but I heart Mr Gaiman. He is forever taking me by surprise. ( and I love his voice - the book tape of The Graveyard Book was like listening to chocolate melting slowly and deliciously over ice-cream.)

Darla D said...

I've been meaning to reread this series and continue with the ones I never got to. I wish my library had this collection! It sounds lovely.