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The Return of the Sandman

mysandmanlibrarySo, the new Sandman series, Overture, premieres tomorrow. First issue of five or so, I believe, shipping bi-monthly. Which means almost a year of new Sandman comics, albeit ~8 weeks between issues instead of 4 (or in the case of ridiculously over-shipped Marvel titles, 2ish).

DC‘s already gonna get my money twice on this, barring something REALLY ticking me off a la Action Comics #2 or such. I’ll certainly buy the issues as they come out–I’m not waiting a couple years to get to read this! And I’ll of course want the paperback collected volume to shelve with the rest of my Sandman paperbacks.

I have a bit of “history” with the Sandman comics, certainly plenty of sentimentality to the experience of acquiring the books as well as real-life stuff going on at the time.

The earliest I recall “hearing of” the series outside of “house ads” and other DC/Vertigo-produced promotional materials was late in high school–my senior year, I believe (though it could have been junior year). A classmate who I never would have pegged for having any interest in comics was talking about this phenomenal series she’d read–something called The Sandman.

sandmanvol3dreamcountryFlash-forward a couple years, to the summer of 2001. I was working as a camp counselor in Michigan, and found out one of the other guys working there was a comics fan…though he had a preference for the non-superhero stuff. One of his favorites was Hellblazer, and through that summer he loaned me all the Hellblazer he had with him (thoroughly getting me hooked on the series, but that’s another post entirely). He’d also told me about this other series, The Sandman, and highly recommended it. Amidst the various issues of Hellblazer I read that summer, I saw plenty of house ads for Sandman stuff, which kept it on my “radar.”

Not long into the new school year, dealing with some frustration and heartache, I came across a quote that a friend had posted on his webpage that perfectly fit how I was feeling with stuff that was going on. I wound up tracking down the quote’s source, which turned out to be a volume of The Sandman, by Neil Gaiman.

Have you ever been in love?  Horrible, isn’t it?  It makes you so vulnerable.  It opens your chest and it opens your heart and it means someone can get inside you and mess you up.  You build up all these defenses.  You build up this whole armor, for years, so nothing can hurt you, then one stupid person, no different from any other stupid person, wanders into your stupid life.  You give them a piece of you.  They don’t ask for it.  They do something dumb one day like kiss you, or smile at you, and then your life isn’t your own anymore. […] It’s a soul-hurt, a body-hurt, a real gets-inside-you-and-rips-you-apart pain.  Nothing should be able to do that.  Especially not love.  I hate love. [Rose Walker, The Sandman: The Kindly Ones, Neil Gaiman]

So I was interested in the source material if only for context of the quote…but “the hunt” for the volume and my interest in the series as a whole actually caught my parents’ attention.

sandmanvol6fablesandreflectionsTheir notice in my interest led to them giving me a couple volumes for my birthday (Dream Country and Fables & Reflections). Meanwhile, my friend (who’d inadvertently introduced me to the quote) picked up Season of Mists…and as I’d let him read my books, he let me read his.

Dad specifically had me confirm on the other volumes at the comic shop shortly before Christmas–I “suspected” from that that I was getting a couple more; that they were completing the series was a memorable, meaningful shock. (My parents have virtually never gifted comics/graphic novels for any occasion as they don’t keep up with all I get on my own; THAT the series was a gift from them given that makes it that much more a sentimental thing to me beyond the stories themselves).

It took me a few weeks to read everything; I read a couple volumes at my grandmother’s in early/mid January 2002 while sandmanvol11endlessnightsDad and I were there; and once back at school got to share the rest of the series with my friend, which gave us loads to talk about (also a great experience: SHARING the reading experience and having someone IMMEDIATELY to talk to who also was only reading any of the books for the first time).

I don’t recall exactly when, but I’m pretty sure I acquired the two Death volumes (The High Cost of Living and The Time of Your Life) via ebay that winter/spring.

Then in 2003 when Endless Nights was announced…it was quite the thing to look forward to. But, I recall being rather disappointed at it being an oversized hardcover…making it really stick out like a sore thumb from the rest of my volumes. But it was Sandman, it was Gaiman, and I quite enjoyed the volume.

So now, we jump an entire decade. Late 2003 to late 2013. And there’s new Sandman. By Neil Gaiman.

Sometimes you wake up. Sometimes the fall kills you. And sometimes…when you fall, you fly!

Can you tell that I’m excited?

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Action Comics #900 [Review]


Full review posted to cxPulp.com.

Story: 3/5
Art: 4/5
Overall: 3.5/5

The To-Be-Read Challenge of 2011

To Be Read Challenge 2011 – from readerchallenges.wordpress.com

My List:

  1. The Last Days of Krypton by Kevin J. Anderson
  2. The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan
  3. The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan
  4. Dragons of the Highlord Skies by Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman
  5. Dragons of the Hourglass Mage by Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman
  6. The Wastelands by Stephen King
  7. Wizard and Glass by Stephen King
  8. The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown
  9. Ancestor by Scott Sigler
  10. Vampire a Go-Go by Victor Gischler
  11. Go-Go Girls of the Apocalypse by Victor Gischler
  12. Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

Alternates:

  1. Wolves of the Calla by Stephen King
  2. Song of Susannah by Stephen King
  3. The Dark Tower by Stephen King
  4. The Street Lawyer by John Grisham
  5. The Innocent Man by John Grisham
  6. Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer by John Grisham
  7. Under the Dome by Stephen King
  8. The Brethren by John Grisham
  9. The Summons by John Grisham
  10. World Without End by Ken Follett
  11. The Ultimate Cat Lover
  12. Expiration Date

 

This challenge will be tracked on the 2011 Reading Challenge Page in the navigation of this blog, rather than on this post itself.

The rules:

  • the challenge is to read 12 TBR books in 12 months — you can read those all in one month if you want, or one a month, or however you wanna do it.
  • you should have a list posted somewhere for others to see
  • you CANNOT change your list after January 1st, of the current year!!!
  • you can create an Alternates list of MAXIMUM 12 books, if you want, in order to have options to choose from (you can read these in place of books on your original list).
  • audiobooks and e-books ARE allowed
  • re-reads are NOT allowed, as they aren’t TRUE “TBRs”
  • you CAN overlap with other challenges
  • OPTIONAL: you can join the Yahoo! Group created for participants of the TBR Challenge, if you want to have a place to
  • keep your list, or just to share with others about how you’re doing!

Detective Comics #853 [Review]

Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader? part 2 of 2

Writer: Neil Gaiman
Penciller: Andy Kubert
Inker: Scott Williams
Colorist: Alex Sinclair
Letterer: Jared K. Fletcher
Assistant Editor: Janelle Siegel
Editor: Mike Marts
Covers: Andy Kubert
Publisher: DC Comics

There’s something to this story that makes it fit in quite well with the stuff that we’ve had from longtime writer Grant Morrison. The abstracts and symbolism, the nods to other eras of continuity and obscurities of the Bat-verse…these are all pretty much at home in my limited understanding of Morrison’s works. At the same time, where this sort of story wouldn’t work for me coming from Morrison, there’s something about the “history” that I have in reading Gaiman’s books and enjoying, understanding, and simply “getting” them that makes this story work very well.

The story is pretty simple, with not very much action here. A large chunk of story is Bruce talking to an image of his mother, sorting out where he is and what he is seeing. As the issue progresses (everything in the previous chapter having set up the foundation for what we get here, now) we begin to see a bit of a cyclical element to the story–one that actually reminds me just a little bit of Ragnarok, the final Thor story a few years ago from Marvel.

The art, though it doesn’t really jump out at me all that much this issue, is still extemely strong, capturing a classic feel without making me feel like this is actually a comic from decades past. Visually, there’s not much of anything I can think of that’d make it much better.

Gaiman references an old children’s book to great effect in this issue. It’s a reference that is fairly key to the whole thing, bringing a lot of stuff to a fitting close…and a reference that to me, makes this that much more a great story.

Though this doesn’t really serve as a hard bookend, closing the door on a version of the character, it still provides a nice breaking point, a send-off of sorts to characters well-known and loved in the Batman continuity. The story that began last year in RIP, continued through Final Crisis and Last Rites actually continues in the mini-event Battle for the Cowl and into some relaunch-type material in a couple months…perhaps the marketing or something else makes this feel like more of a side-story…a “What would happen if we DID decide to end things now?” kinda thing.

On my first read-through of this issue, I was not sold on the ending. Upon further reflection and asking a friend about the book I thought was being referenced, I realized the brilliance of this story. Whether you’ve been a longtime Batman reader or not, you should have no real trouble following this 2-part story. In fact, you might actually enjoy it all the more being aware only of characters’ existence and not being steeped in the history.

Whatever the case, if you can find the story now as single issues, it’s only two issues and so quite worth snagging that way…if you’re unable to get the story as singles, I very highly recommend picking up the collected volume when it comes out this summer.

Story: 9.5/10
Art: 9/10
Whole: 9.5/10

Batman #686 [Review]

Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader? part 1 of 2: The Beginning of the End

Writer: Neil Gaiman
Penciller: Andy Kubert
Inker: Scott Williams
Colorist: Alex Sinclair
Letterer: Jared K. Fletcher
Assistant Editor: Janelle Siegel
Editor: Mike Marts
Covers: Andy Kubert and Alex Ross
Publisher: DC Comics

This issue opens with faceless dialogue, a conversation between two individuals. We then witness Selina Kyle arriving at a location in Crime Alley, where she shows that she can take care of herself, handling her own affairs. In a scene that made me think very much of something from The Sandman: Worlds’ End or House of Mystery, she meets an old character who directs her to her destination–a funeral, apparently. We’re quickly introduced to other attendees, with a couple of mildy interesting moments of a running gag. Those assembled at the apparent funeral are treated to a couple of stories that would seem to have led everyone to being where they are for this issue. Back to the faceless dialogue we’re left with probable set-up and hints of what’s to come in the second and final chapter of this story.

The art in this issue initially threw me a bit–it has several styles that come across pretty clearly, and yet after checking the issue’s credits, I was assured there was a single penciller. Some “sketchbook pages” at the back of the issue clued me in that the style variance was intentional–reminsicent of various visual styles of the Batman through the years. With that in mind, I actually enjoy the variance. Despite the variance, the quality of the work is quite solid, and I really have no complaint.

The story has a lot to live up to. It’s titled Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?–a title meant to place it in similar territory as Alan Moore’s Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?. Additionally, the writer is Neil Gaiman! Given that, I went into this issue half expecting to be let down…and was plesantly surprised when I really enjoyed the issue.

There’s a lot of metatextual stuff at work, and stuff that I can’t help but admit I’m wondering at due to my enjoyment of The Sandman nearly a decade ago. We have a nice almost double-framing device of the story, and stories within the story; everything reminding me of something else. Somehow, though, I greatly enjoyed it in this case where I loathed it in Morrison’s stuff, particularly Batman: RIP.

This probably won’t be a classic on the level of Moore’s Superman story…but I think this will be a stand-out story, worthy of its namesake. I don’t remember the last time I enjoyed a Batman issue as much as this, and whether or not you’ve been following this title, Final Crisis, or other DC stuff, based on this chapter alone the story is well worth nabbing just for a great Batman story by Gaiman.

Highly recommended!

Story: 9/10
Art: 9/10
Whole: 9/10

The Sandman: The Dream Hunters #1 [Review]

Original Words by: Neil Gaiman
Graphicplay and Art by: P. Craig Russell
Coloring: Lovern Kindzierski
Lettering: Todd Klein
Associate Editor: Pornsk Pichetshote
Editor: Karen Berger
Covers by: Yuko Shimizu and P. Craig Russell
Published by: Vertigo/DC Comics

As this story begins, a Badger and a Fox make a small wager, that whoever can drive a young monk from the temple can claim the temple as their own home. While each puts on an impressive show, the young monk sees through each, and remains. However, the fox finds herself in a bit of a predicament–she has fallen in love with the monk. Having done so, when she learns of a plot hatched by demons to kill the monk, she seeks some way in which she might save this monk, and finds herself encountering the king of dreams–Morpheus–The Sandman. She gets an answer to her dilemma…and wakes.

The art here is quite good. There’s a certain charm to it–it’s fairly simplistic, but not overly so. There’s plenty of detail where necessary. Other than the fact that the art fits and simply works very well for the story, I don’t have much to say on it.

The story is by Neil Gaiman, and was originally published as a novella a decade ago. This is the first of a four-issue comic adaptation of that novella. The story maintains its strength, and having the panel-by-panel visuals to chronicle the story gives a much different feel to the story while staying extremely true to the original.

I don’t always find adaptations of anything to be all that wonderful–but I have to say, just as a first issue, this is probably the best adaptation of a written work I’ve come across–at least in recent memory. Curious from the start how closely this would follow the original source material, I actually pulled the original from my shelf to compare…and was very much impressed. Virtually word for word, this is identical to its source. The difference is in the format. Narration in the original that describes a setting doesn’t have to be prose–we see it in the visuals. We also don’t have narration telling us that the Fox said this or the Badger said that–we have the word balloons showing who says what, and what they ‘re saying. Though I recall enjoying the original well enough–the art was certainly beautiful to look at–the story itself never really stuck with me all that much. Somehow, the way it is presented here, it sticks, and thus puts this at least in equal footing with the original–if not surpassing it in its own way.

This comic adaptation brings something new and fresh to the table–enhancing the original, without displacing it. Neil Gaiman fans, P. Craig Russell fans, Sandman fans–all ought to find plenty to enjoy here, if only for nostalgia’s sake. You could certainly do far worse with a prose-to-comics adapted work.

Story: 8/10
Art: 9/10
Whole: 9/10

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