Written by: Neil Gaiman
Art by: J.H. Williams, III
J.H. Williams, III
Variant Cover by:
J.H. Williams, III
Since its genesis in the long distant past of December 2013, Sandman Overture has been making waves, the kind that one feels when lying on a raft in the ocean. Delays and twists have set the project back considerably, but each exceeds reader expectations. Like my previous review, I do not desire to spoil anything. This is a qualitative analysis, nothing more.
Denoting this end note plot compendium an “overture” is hardly a mistake, or some ghastly work of Vertigo marketing. Many arrive at the conclusion erroneously that an overture is the concluding piece of an opera, or some grander musical work. (At least I suspected it was.) The overture however is the beginning thrust of the work, the introductory theme. Imagine the opening titles for Star Wars, the jaundiced scroll that initiates an unforgettable science fantasy adventure. That is an overture: the presentation of something vogue and brave and keen and wonderful.
Knowing Neil Gaiman, I would suspect that this was indeed an intentional designation. The Overture is an introduction to Sandman, implying what we had known all along was in fact a ruse, or a half-truth. While issues #1 and #2 expand upon the Gaiman-verse cosmology, #3 introduces some explanation for some pressing questions in the original Sandman run. On the first read I was compelled to open my Absolute editions and investigate. This painstaking attention to cursory detail compels me to wonder if Gaiman had been willing to let us in on the mysteries of his worlds all along, but was thwarted by the makeup of the 24 page issue narrative structure. I want to believe that.
Issue #3 introduces some token worlds with Kirby-like enthusiasm, featuring skyboxes filled with particle fire borrowed from the Fourth World cosmology. Aliens on surfboards and planetary conflict are close at hand, in like manner. J. H. Williams superbly re-instills the wonderment of Kirby’s science fiction layouts, using Technicolor hues and fusing the aesthetic with western cowboy fantasies, harkening back to a time when the West was indeed Wild. The exuberance of Kirby is there, but with a modern twist. What should seem artificial illuminates Gaiman’s growing fascination with American Midwestern culture. Thankfully, pastiche gives way to homage, and homage gives way to reverence.
The cliffhangers of issue #2 go unanswered, unfortunately. One would imagine that as an imperative priority. Still, one must take issue #3 for what it is: expansion. Growing up, I experienced a new fad of the video game industry that lends understanding to exactly what Sandman Overture #3 is: an “expansion pack.” These bundles offered expansions upon either gameplay, or mechanics, of preexisting content. Their allure was the promise of a greater immersive universe, though many failed to deliver lasting impressions. Blizzard’s Warcraft, on the other hand, did a fine job at this, but the sins of the many outweigh the successes of the few. This is what I think of the current progression of Gaiman’s world. Granted that much of what we understand to be enigmatic in Sandman has been steadily resolved, there is still ground to cover. (I, the reader, feel relieved to have read what I have read.) It is disappointing that the endnote of issue #2 was not broached in issue #3; still, the morsels that I have been fed are morsels enough.
If you haven’t had the opportunity to dive further into Sandman Overture, issue #3 is as much reason as any to commit and get involved. The writing is par excellence. The narrative cohesiveness is the best thus far. Everything about issue #3 is dazzling, despite some dangling threads left unresolved.
At least I know now where Dream’s psychic hood came from.
Rating: 8 (of 10)