Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman is one of the undisputed classics of the graphic novel medium. The story of how Dream, Prince of Stories, came to rebuild his kingdom and change into someone else is as beautiful as it is difficult to explain to the uninitiated. The mythology which has sprung up out of Gaiman’s work (which encompasses all of world mythology and fiction, as the realm of The Dreaming encompasses everything that is, might be and cannot be) is one of the most complex in comic book history. It has also spawned a number of mini-series and spin-offs, including the equally long-running Lucifer series.
Continuing that legacy would be a daunting task even for Gaiman himself. There is so much to explain. So much to consider. And a few things to retcon, like the short-lived The Dreaming series that killed off Matthew The Raven. Twice.
Thankfully, none of that should concern newbies who enter into The Sandman Universe #1 without any prior experience to the shared universe of Vertigo Comics. Indeed, they may fare better than old scholars like myself, who know of the first comic where Lucien the Librarian of Dreams REALLY appeared and were confused by the preview which showed a living (well, sort of) Matthew The Raven among the denizens of The Dreaming, who are freaking out because of a crack in the sky that signals bad things are coming. The action of the comic follows Matthew as he tries to track down Dream and discovers that there’s a whole lot of bad things going on in The Vertigo Universe…
I will leave it to you readers to find out just what the bad things are. Suffice it to say, this book sets up four spin-off series that will either revive certain classic Vertigo Comics titles or put new spins on old classics.
The tale of Matthew will continue in a new The Dreaming book focused on the various characters employed by Dream to keep the world of imagination running. House of Whispers, a new horror anthology in the same vein as House of Secrets and House of Mystery, will feature the voodoo goddess Erzulie charged with maintaining a new house in The Dreaming. The Books Of Magic will continue the misadventures of Tim Hunter – a young magician whose destiny will either save or doom the magical world. Finally, there will be a new Lucifer series, which sees the former King of Hell trapped in dire circumstances, as he goes to increasingly twisted ends (even by his standards) to escape the fate his Father has planned for him.
It is a bit hard to judge each individual book based on the previews contained within this volume. Despite the different art-styles in play, the whole host of stories gel together beautifully. In this respect, they are a perfect encapsulation of the spirit of the original Sandman series, which also united many different stories and art styles into one glorious whole. Further analysis will have to wait until the new series reveal themselves but, based on what we see here, the new Sandman Universe is a dream come true.