Late last October, the first issue of Sandman: Overture reached comic store shelves. The start of a new bimonthly six-part story, with art by J.H. Williams III, it’s a prologue to writer Neil Gaiman’s widely-acclaimed Sandman series, which ran for 75 issues (plus a special, some spin-off miniseries, a novella, and a collection of short comics stories) from 1988 to 1996. The series built in popularity as it went on and seems to have continued to find an audience in the years since its conclusion. It’s sustained a level of commercial appeal — perhaps as much as any single comic series, it helped to create the contemporary market for trade paperbacks — while also drawing critical praise, both inside and outside of comics. Issues or storylines of the main series were repeatedly nominated for the British Fantasy Awards, and once for the Stoker, while one issue won the 1991 World Fantasy Award.
Why did the comic become so important? What does it do so well? And does it look like the new series can hold up? I want to take a stab at answering those questions, in reverse order. There’s a lot to be said about Sandman, and this really scratches the surface of possible interpretations; but for what it’s worth, this is the framework in my head when I look at the comic.
To start with the new stuff: the first issue’s incredibly promising. It’s a prequel that looks to tell a story worth telling — a story that answers an unanswered question from the main tale. The original Sandman series began with the main character, Dream of the Endless, also known as Morpheus, captured by a group of occultists in the early 20th century. We later find out that Dream’s a fundamental force of the cosmos, one of a group of more-than-godly siblings; so how did a group of semi-accomplished would-be wizards manage to imprison him? This new miniseries, it seems, will describe the conflict which weakened Dream to the point where he could be held for decades in a glass prison.