By MENACHEM LUCHINS
It’s always been my intent to highlight “old” titles in this column as well. There’s just so much great stuff coming out that I’m overwhelmed with choices, so why go into the past? Well, recently I’ve seen more than one person either publicly or privately admit that they’d never read The Sandman and that seems reason enough.
Almost everyone I have ever spoken to who hasn’t read Neil Gaiman’s modern classic gets very defensive. They either, a) feel bad for not “getting” what they have read of it or, b) cite the fact that there are too many books and sigh and say “one day.” This is, of course, understandable. EVERYONE is ALWAYS telling them they need to read it and judging them for not having done so. EVERYONE is ALWAYS going on and on about how brilliant it is and how deep and meaningful. EVERYONE is ALWAYS judging them for not having read it.
Guess what? It’s JUST A BOOK. It’s a great book, a book about stories and change and growth and family and love and pain and responsibility, but still just a book. You are ALLOWED to not read it, to not like it, to find it boring. Don’t get me wrong, I *LOVE* The Sandman but there’s no contract that says you have to, also. That being said, let me tell you why I think you should give it a(nother) shot.
As always, we’ll avoid spoilers and discuss themes and such.
Starting with a very “modern horror” feel thanks to the art of Sam Kieth and Mike Dringenberg, we are introduced to a world where magic is real and one magus seeks to capture power for himself. Right from the beginning, it’s the characterization that shines — the relationships and hang-ups of every character captivates us long before the titular hero appears, is stripped of his power, and imprisoned.
This is the point I feel so many miss about this book — the characters! I don’t mean the larger-than-life Endless or mythological familiars like Lucifer, Loki and Hippogriffs. EVERY. SINGLE. CHARACTER in the book shines with life and personality. They are never just plot devices or Mary Sues but living, breathing characters we love, hate, or envy.
Yes, the books get “deeper.” They get meta-textual, they get mythological, yes. Gods and Monsters and the worst and best of humanity are showcased and expounded on, true. The diverse array of artists from Colleen Doran to Glyn Dillon lay out a plethora of styles, each distinct yet part of the larger whole.
But FORGET ALL THAT! What we are given, within the series in toto, is a meditation on change; the benefits of and costs therein. Weaving through time, showing us Morpheus, the Sandman, both before his imprisonment and after it, we see how he has changed and how he has not, what choices he chooses to make and which ones he is forced to by circumstance.
The Sandman is published by Vertigo and is available in pretty much every permutation imaginable: hardcover, trade paperback, reprints, digital, annotated, re-mastered, omnibi, etc., etc.
Who would like it: Readers of Neil Gaiman’s other works, fans of Stephen King, Clive Barker, Alan Moore and Dave Sim. Watchers of complex, character-driven shows like “Breaking Bad,” “Lost,” “House of Cards.”
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