Written by: Neil Gaiman
Art by: J.H. Williams, III
J.H. Williams, III
Variant Cover by:
J.H. Williams, III
The long awaited Sandman Overture #4 has arrived, just in time for Christmas. This is appropriate, you see. It had been so long since I’ve read Neil Gaiman’s new series, partly due to it’s irregular release cycle, that I had to re-read #3 to recover the story that I was about to pick up on. I had no expectations going into #4 however, partly because I’m beginning to understand Neil’s intensions with the Overture miniseries. This is not meant to be taken as a bad thing, just something different. And that makes all the difference in the world.
I will not give away any spoilers, as expressed in my previous article.
I mentioned that Overture #4 came, for me, just in time for Christmas, which is suitable because #4 is much like a gift one finds under the tree on Christmas day. It’s very well packaged, and printed on what seems to be a very resilient and well-crafted paper stock. This helps showcase J.H. Williams’ artwork and Dave Stewart’s coloring, which like Alan Moore’s Promethea, is fluid, vibrant, and more at home in a Pop art gallery than a trade paperback. But like every present, what is inside is a mixed bag. Again, this shouldn’t be taken as a negative aspect of what Neil is offering. As a long time reader of the Sandman series, I have certain expectations of what I will encounter. After finishing #2, I found out that somewhere we will meet Dream’s father, and the reader does in issue #4. This encounter dominates the content of the issue.
Dream’s “Father” is Alan Moore. (No, that’s not a spoiler. It’s common sense) After all, Neil’s influences have always centered around Moore’s earlier work at DC, namely Swamp Thing. In many respects, Moore is what Neil could have become, an insular recluse who’s cynicism has consumed him. (And who could blame him?) But Neil didn’t, and instead has crafted a grander narrative of his life into his work, just as Grant Morrison attempts to justify his out of body experiences through his work in DC’s Multiverse. So in Sandman Overture #4, Neil paints Moore as a fatherly, tarot reading supreme deity, but more detached and deistic, the kind of god that would be at home at the tail end of the Western Enlightenment. Here, Neil communicates his agnosticism (I assume) and inclinations towards pluralism, and this issue, in particular, breaks down the Platonic rigidity of how postmoderns encounter “god.”
In Overture #4 we are treated to more backstory, shedding light on the first Dream Vortext that the King of Dreams dealt with in his youth. What we learn expands upon Dream’s character. (That goes without saying.) Originally, Dream was a monotone, Spock-like entity, and the majority of the Sandman run pursues the breakdown of that schema. His pursuit of humanity and attempts to understand his identity is what brings about his eventual death. Overture #4 allows the reader to understand the complexity of Dream’s character, showing us the chinks in his phantom armor, which, despite being crafted from the husks of dead gods, is proven to be more an adornment than accolade. The greater story at work here is Neil showing who he imagines “god” to be: hurt, lonely, isolated, yet daring, hopeful, and bound by honor to finish the task.
Saying that Overture #4 is the best issue so far is accurate, but it isn’t what one expects. There is something deeper going on in Neil’s mind and it is bleeding out into reality. (From the Dreaming perhaps?) The Sandman has always struggled with the role of spirituality, and the identification one finds in religion. Here, the struggle is present and at the forefront of the issue. Who Dream is, what he is, is unveiled within issue 4, and it’s something you don’t want to miss.
Rating: 9 (of 10)