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Preludes & Nocturnes by Neil Gaiman

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Story: A group of magical cultists attempts to summon Death but instead draw out her brother Morpheus, the Sandman. While trapped by the magicians the world is struck by “sleeping sicknesses” some people cannot sleep and others cannot wake. This continues for seventy years until the Sandman is finally released but all of his tools have been scattered across the world. He must first regain his strength before he ventures to retrieve his items. While in the dream world he seeks information from three witches who tell him where his three tools are. He will have to find a man named John Constantine who knows where his pouch of sand is. He will have to travel to the underworld to battle a demon for his mask. He will have to find the remnants of the Justice League of America in order to recover his gem. The witches don’t tell him everything though and he encounters difficulties on his way to retrieve his power.

The Sandman is one of the most critically acclaimed and is constantly considered amongst the greatest comics of all time. The first trade, Preludes & Nocturnes, takes a while to get really good but once it does it is impossible to put down. The first few issues introduce some interesting concepts but they are pretty common and nothing special. For a while I wondered what all the hype was about, until “24 hours” the sixth issue of Preludes & Nocturnes. Neil Gaiman gives a horrifying look at a psychopath and his games over a course of 24 hours. It’s both terrible and frighteningly interesting at the same time. The story builds even after that and culminates in issue #8 “The Sound of Her Wings,” an issue that Vertigo Executive Editor Karen Berger called “the turning point of Sandman.” The story follows the Sandman as he travels with his sister Death and what they encounter.

Preludes & Nocturnes might be among my favorite comic books of all time. I went into it expecting a lot because it had gotten very positive recommendations and because it was written by Neil Gaiman. I wasn’t disappointed. The story is simple but with underlying intricacies that make it emotional and thought-provoking. The characters are familiar for the most part including is a cast from other DC Comics like John Constantine and Martian Manhunter but the two most interesting characters are Dream and Death. The way the two look at the world and the way they interact is fascinating.

Art: When I read a story with what seems like questionable art it normally grows on me. Batman: The Long Halloween had rough art that I didn’t mind by the end but I definitely didn’t think that it was amazing. Preludes & Nocturnes had a very late eighties/early nineties feel and I always found that art to be a little…comic. However even with the more cartoonish style and sometimes bright coloring it still served its purpose in being dark when it needed to be. It took a while but I actually came to enjoy the art in Preludes & Nocturnes.

Final Verdict:
The entire Sandman library is critically acclaimed for a very good reason. I found the story absolutely enthralling and once I was finished I regretted not picking up other trades in the series. Preludes & Nocturnes is at once exciting and poignant.

Buy it Borrow it Skip it

The Sandman is more adult in both art and language and themes so it best left to an older group of readers. I would recommend this book to nearly everyone, whether they like comic books or not. The main people that would probably enjoy it are those who like comic books, DC comics, or Neil Gaiman’s writing.



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