SANDMAN UNIVERSE: NIGHTMARE COUNTRY #1/ Script by JAMES TYNION IV/ Art by LISANDRO ESTHERREN/ Colors by PATRICIO DELPECHE/ Dreaming Sequence Art by YANICK PAQUETTE/ Dreaming Sequence Colors by NATHAN FAIRBAIRN/ Letters by SIMON BOWLAND/ Published by DC BLACK LABEL
The Corinthian was a nightmare, meant to serve as a dark mirror to humanity. While the Lord of Dreams was held captive, the Corinthian went out into the waking world and became one of the most infamous serial killers of all time. He was unmade for his transgression when the Dream King returned to power, yet was later remade – this time with a greater grip upon his purpose, tormenting humanity but not destroying them.
Alas, a nightmare now stalks the waking world. One not of the Dream King’s making. And now this new Corinthian stalks the waking world as well. Seeking out this new threat, yes, but also seeking the meaning of the strange memories he has of a life both his yet not his at all!
It is a rare thing for a writer to try and mimic another writer’s style, yet retain their own unique voice. Somehow James Tynion IV manages this trick while doing his level best to write like Neil Gaiman. This first issue of Nightmare Country is definitely a Sandman story, with its focus largely on ordinary human characters touched by the realm of the Dreaming. The usual toys and tropes are there, but we also get the esoteric conversations unique to Tynion’s original horror works, such as The Nice House on the Lake. Strangely enough, the one aspect of this book that seems most evocative of Gaiman’s oeuvre seems to be a nod to Neverwhere, as Tynion’s villains Mr. Agony and Mr. Ecstasy sound very much Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar.
The artwork is equally unique, yet cast in the grand tradition of Vertigo Comics. Lisandro Estherren can draw reality and unreality with equal ease and it’s shocking how quickly the artwork can shift from realistic slice-of-life imagery to exaggerated slice-and-dice horror within the span of a panel. The colors by Patricio Delpeche are rich and well-chosen throughout. We also get a nice callback to the last monthly series set in the Dreaming, with Yanick Paquette and Nathan Fairbairn illustrating a sequence which introduces the Corinthian. All of this is lettered by the fantastic Simon Bowland, who is fast on his way to becoming the next Todd Klein.
If you are a fan of The Sandman, Nightmare Country is a dream come true. It has its own voice and look, while still seeming a natural continuation of Neil Gaiman’s saga. Newcomers to the series and horror fans will love it as much as the old guard.