Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Review: The Sandman, Vol. 1: Preludes and Nocturnes

The Sandman, Vol. 1: Preludes and Nocturnes The Sandman, Vol. 1: Preludes and Nocturnes by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I admit it. I have been hard on Neil Gaiman. I’ve read just a couple of his – Neverwhere and The Ocean at the End of the Lane – and I’ve liked them but. There’s always been something that kept me from joining the cult of Gaiman, something that, while I enjoyed what I was reading, made me assert (in truth) that I’m a bigger fan of his wife, rock star Amanda Palmer.

But this is where it all started, and it’s where friends have insisted I had to go before I could render a legitimate verdict on the guy.

And while I am not quite ready to declare The Sandman a masterpiece, I am certainly intrigued. It’s striking in its story, in its art, and in its tone. It’s familiar and original – uncanny in the way Freud described the term, and in the same essay he considered the original Sandman episode from E.T.A. Hoffman – and I had a hard time putting it down. This is really something. It may well turn out to be a masterpiece.

Reputation has Gaiman as one of the foundational graphic novelists that came in the wake of Maus – alongside Allan Moore and Frank Miller – and I can already see it here. What’s particularly intriguing, though, is that this isn’t beginning as a graphic novel in the sense of a larger, structured narrative. Instead, it has the shape and feel of a comic series. Each episode stands on its own in the midst of the larger story, but each is still complete in itself. I can imagine being one of those kids who waited each month to snatch up the latest issue. Even reading it all these years later at night before bed, I found myself wondering during the day what would happen next.

I don’t mean that as any sort of complaint. Graphic novels have the feel of films (which is probably why Miller and Moore have had more luck with their books being filmed) but there’s something beguiling in the wait-til-next-issue texture of this. Eisner, Spiegelman and their followers invented a new art form. Gaiman adapted an old one into a new kind of art. (Or at least that what it feels like this early into things.)

I’ll cut this review short by my wordy standards because, even though it’s getting late, I want to read the next chapter. And, of course, that’s the ultimate thumbs up.

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