PRELUDES & NOCTURNES

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Peril In Panels XI: PRELUDES & NOCTURNES

Start your Sunday up right with the latest edition of Peril In Panels!
Once more, I, Jonathan Kruschack are bringing to you another comic review:
Neil Gaiman’s THE SANDMAN, specifically volume one, Preludes & Nocturnes.
An award winning and much acclaimed series from the 90’s with a rotating cast of artists (all of them quite incredible and sought after), this story is the beginning of what can be called a saga of epic proportions. This comic has risen from its humble starting point to lofty heights. Let’s dig in, kind reader.

Basic Plot Overview

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Preludes & Nocturnes introduces the Sandman, Master of Dreams and member of The Endless, a family of sorts who each represent powerful forces and have names that start with the letter D (Death, Destiny, Desire, Destruction, Delirium). One day in 1916 Dream is captured by mortals who were attempting through dark magicks, to bind and capture his older sister Death so that they could conquer death and live forever.
This causes incredibly horrible consequences throughout the world until 1988,
when Dream manages to escape, punish his captor, and return to the world.
Unfortunately, he has lost three items that are symbols of his power.
Weakened, Dream must retrieve his lost power and return the world to normal again. Along the way he’ll venture back to his own realm, meet John Constantine, Cain and Abel, the demon Etrigan, Doctor Destiny and his sister, Death among many others.

The Writing

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There’s a reason I won’t ever shut up about American Gods and this comic and its that Neil friggin’ Gaiman wrote them and they’re both incredibly good. Now, its very clear that this is one of, if not the, first big attempt at comic writing Neil Gaiman had done up to this point in his life, so its a bit shaky here and there but still very good, improving as each chapter ends. There’s cliffhangers to keep you coming back and the part with Doctor Destiny in a diner is one of the most disturbing, evil things you’ll ever read. Sad, to. Gaiman knows how to make you laugh, cry and shudder with terror.

The Art

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This gets really tricky, because of the aforementioned rotating cast of artists.
This volume is drawn by Sam Keith, Mike Dringenberg and Malcolm Jones III, lettered by Todd Klein, coloured by Robbie Busch and has insanely good covers by Dave McKean.

McKean’s covers are constructed and drawn, multi-media masterpieces. They are damn awe-inspiring. As someone who’s had to do similar work in school, I understand how difficult it is to create something like that (not that mine were anywhere near as good but hey, I tried). The whole series has them, they’re great. Look them up.

Klein and Busch’s works are so damn good I’m not good enough to give them separate paragraphs.

Klein nails every word bubble and Busch’s colouring has this great old-school feel to it. The colours can be a bit messy at times but in this it actually works in its favour.

Keith, Dringenberg and Jones III all hit it out of the park in their own ways.
Jones III draws Dream (aka Morpheus) the best, in my opinion. With his messy hair evoking Gaiman himself, great expressions and body language. Keith, on the other hand, is the perfect opening salvo. He’s the artist who begins the series, is very moody and handles depicting the fantastic and odd very well. Dringenberg is kind of a mix between the two, unfortunately not standing out as much as the others but is none the less as competent.
I’d personally like to see more of his work, just from seeing this.

Last Words

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(Finally came up with a good subtitle for this part of the article!)

Alright, so there you have Preludes & Nocturnes, the first volume of Neil Gaiman’s take on the Sandman for DC Comics’s VERTIGO line. A deeply intriguing book from its story to its art to Hell, even just the covers. I highly suggesting getting the trade paperback but any version of this will do. My absolute favourite parts of it are “Dream A Little Dream of Me” where Dream meets John Constantine, “A Hope In Hell” where Dream literally goes to Hell to retrieve one of the items he seeks and “24 Hours”, the chapter in which we see what happens if ludicrously unstable villain Doctor Destiny hangs out in a diner, screwing with people using Dream’s power and finally “The Sound Of Her Wings” which is an extra story that is much appreciated. Dream meets up with his sister, Death and the two go on a little adventure while Death does her daily thing (i.e. ending people’s lives).

They’re all worth reading. They all have some of my favourite scenes in all of comics and all hit you differently. “The Sound Of Her Wings” has an especially sad part where Death has to collect the soul of an infant who simply says “But…was that it? Is that all I get?” Which really takes a second to sink in. And of course, “Dream A Little Dream Of Me” where John Constantine shows us why he’s one of the greatest characters in all of comics, being smart, funny, kind, sad, heart-warming…all while acting like a snug, smarmy, snark-filled, magic-knowing arsehole (I Britished that one up for you, Constantine).

SO do yourself a favour, pick up Neil Gaiman’s THE SANDMAN, starting with Preludes & Nocturnes. You won’t be disappointed.

That’s it for me, keep it monstrous everybody!

– J. Kruschack

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