Neil Gaiman’s comic The Sandman Volume I: Preludes and Nocturnes, introduces readers to the re-vamped and new character of The Sandman, a trans-dimensional being who controls dreams, and begins with The Sandman’s capture by a mysterious order of occult worshipers. They, naturally, we’re trying to capture Death, but messed up the summoning spell. They decide to keep The Sandman locked up anyway. After 70 years of confinement, Sandman/Dream/ Morpheus is able to escape and exact his revenge. But he is weak; his Objects, a Dream Helm, a Dream Sand Pouch, and a Dreamstone, are scattered around the world (or hell, as the case may be), and the home he left has crumbled.
Volume one of the ten part series sets up a fascinating cast of characters, including Sandman’s main nemesis in this volume, Doctor Destiny. But before Morpheus can re-capture his Dreamstone (aka madness ruby), he consults The Three Witches who give him clues on the whereabouts of his Objects. Before he begins his search, Sandman/Morpheus lands at Cain and Abel’s home where they debrief him on the passage of time (one thing that hasn’t changed is Cain murdering Abel on a consistent basis). Once Morpheus visits his former home, he sees how time has ruined what he used to know. He begins his journey in search of his Objects (though his power is weak). He gets in touch with the Justice League who then point Morpheus in the direction of John Constantine, who seems oddly undisturbed by Morpheus’s presence during this chapter, and they search for the Dream Sand Pouch. Next, Morpheus goes to hell to recover his Dream Helm from a demon in a fight in a battle of wits. I thought this was an interesting chapter because of how Gaiman set up hell with a Triumvirate.
The final part of the quest is to collect the madness ruby from Doctor Destiny. This chapter was set up really well because we get to see a bit of humanity in Morpheus. I don’t want to tell too much, but let’s just say there’s a 24-hour period of world wide madness that Doctor Destiny creates. And if Dream doesn’t stop him, it would go on forever.
What I found particularly interesting was how much of this comic is described as horror. There are definitely elements of this and I do not want to discredit them (people who never wake up, touches on important topics like AIDS, rape, and drug use, plus the 24-hours of horror in the diner–murder, sex, god-worship, etc., etc.), but I never once felt scared, like I want to feel when I read a horror novel. I think this may have had something do do with the lack of immersion I felt in the text. In full disclosure, this was my first comic, and first DC comic. I was grossly unfamiliar with a lot of characters, especially members of the Justice League, like Scott Free and the Martian. I’m worried that I may have missed some important information from the illustrations, or by subtext, that wasn’t addressed in the dialogue. I definitely want to continue reading this series, though. Neil Gaiman is a great storyteller.
P.S. Shout out to Paul Levitz (then Executive Vice President and Publisher of DC), my former Transmedia professor, who was in the credits!
P.S.S. A Sandman movie is being made with Joseph Gordon-Levitt, which Neil Gaiman is producing!