As I’ve mentioned before, Sandman is the series that roped me into comics. I bought Volume 1, Preludes and Nocturnes, specifically because of my love for Gaiman’s writing and the fact that I’d been dancing for a while on the periphery of comics through friends who followed various DC and Marvel heroes. After that first volume, I was patient and didn’t read anything more until I received the first omnibus volume as a gift, and then the second omnibus the following year. Go big or go home. The series as a whole, which ended in 1996, is storytelling genius; if I ever get tattoos, they will likely be Sandman quotes or images (one of my favorite quotes: “To absent friends, lost loves, old gods, and the season of mists; and may each and every one of us always give the devil his due.”). Overture, the collected volume of which was released this past November, is the prequel story leading up to the moments directly before the main series opens. And it gives an excellent first impression – check the exquisite dust jacket and cover art:
For the uninitiated, Dream, the eponymous Sandman, widely called Morpheus, among an endless array of epithets and titles, is one of seven entities known as the Endless, personifications of the forces that drive life. Dream’s brothers and sisters are Destruction, Delirium (formerly Delight), Despair, Desire, Death, and Destiny. In Overture, Dream discovers that a really long time ago (in a galaxy far, far away) he made a mistake, one that resonates on a very human level, and didn’t even know it. Now his mistake is going to destroy reality. Oh, and (mild spoilers, but this happens really early on) one facet of his being has been murdered. Dream is not particularly fond of either of these facts, so he sets out to fix them.
For readers who have already read the original series, the complex ways Overture ties into and informs the narrative, motives, and character relationships of established canon is guaranteed to produce a few “Ah-ha!” moments. There were times I gasped out loud, and at the end I simply inarticulately flailed a bit. This new story holds impressive scope over the series, offering insight into both that fateful beginning, with Dream captured by conjurers, and its world-shifting finale. That being said, appreciating Overture is not dependent on familiarity with the series. However, just like it answers mysteries from the series, Overture offers mysteries that can only be answered if you read the whole story. So approach with caution if you dislike puzzles or developing narrative addictions.
On top of that, the art, courtesy of J.H. Williams III and colored by Dave Stewart, is gorgeous. The framing and perspectives are intensely clever, twisting around pages and with divisions that are amorphous and fractured. It’s the kind of style you expect from a particularly trippy dream sequence, appropriately enough. My only complaint, if it’s possible to call it so, is that I almost reached a point where the art was too vivid. The flood of colors and details can be overwhelming. You will miss things on the first read; this is an unavoidable fact. Overture is a brilliant, beautiful addition to one of the most compelling stories I have encountered, and I, for one, look forward to re-reading it in its entirety.