The Sandman series of books was responsible for setting up a whole new ‘universe’ in the world of DC Comics. In this series, the human race is watched over by a group of eternal beings called the Endless. These beings are god-like but have nothing to do with religion. Instead they personify characteristics of humanity that transcend all races and cultures.
Morpheus, the eponymous Sandman, is one of these endless – the star of this book and series. He is responsible for sleep, ruling over The Dreaming, the place where people go when they aren’t conscious. Gaiman creates a pantheon of supernatural beings over the course of the series and a few of these make their first appearances here, though this volume mainly provides an introduction to Morpheus. It was also Gaiman’s first stab at an ongoing monthly comic, so it also allows for some foot-finding.
Speaking of which there are many flaws in the book, mixed up alongside some shining jewels of brilliance. The flaws include trying to tightly integrate DC Comics’ superhero universe into the Sandman’s. Thankfully, Gaiman doesn’t bother to try and do this again. On the bright side there are two awesome stories here – 24 Hours, which is set in a restaurant and is genuinely disturbing; and the epilogue, which starts to help us understand the scope of what Gaiman is creating with the series.
On the art front, the initially cartoony style of Sam Keith is replaced by the scratchy style of Mike Dringenberg and the mood changes perceptibly. The comic becomes more human, though Dringenberg’s best artwork has yet to come and he’s as much finding his feet as Gaiman is.
Preludes and Nocturnes is required reading if you’re to go on and understand the series, as there are seeds planted here that are brought to glorious fruition further down the line. In places it’s hard going, but in others it’s perfectly fluid and the good outweighs the bad, especially if you consider the length and breadth of the journey you’re about to embark upon.