"It is always the nature of dreams to define reality"



The craft that goes into weaving stories is majorly credited as the most astounding feat of the imagination, but it is also nonetheless laborious and altogether a vexing preoccupation. My own fascination for myths and legends started from an impressionable age which I pursued over the years ever since I discovered that I not only have an insatiable passion to read books but also an inclination to pen tales of my very own.

And this is how Neil Gaiman's enduring series found me at the ripe age of nineteen. In 2009, I was also actively pursuing a scholastic career in writing as soon as I joined the student paper to become a literary writer. The current associate there then (who eventually became one of my best friends) introduced me to Neil Gaiman. He looked up to this author and even had a chance to interview the man himself and write a feature article for our magazine.

Suffice to say, The Sandman shaped a lot about how I began to view the art of making myths and storytelling ever since I started to consume its eleven-volumed breadth years ago. The series was published by Vertigo comics, which is an extension of the DC universe with works that do not necessarily fall in the superhero genre, such as more adult-oriented storylines with fantasy and occult elements. Gaiman's rich tapestry of plots and characters which populated The Sandman was evident not only in the ensemble of artists who inked and illustrated each issue/collection, but also in how he mightily penned the dysfunctional anthropomorphic family called the Endless, and how they affect the lives of countless characters.

The Endless is essentially a family of timeless beings that embody seven core aspects of the universe's consciousnesss. The eldest is Destiny followed by Death, Dream and Destruction, then the twins Desire and Despair and finally Delight who later transformed into Delirium. Each Endless is responsible for the realm of their namesake, governing and facilitating everything. Their influence is far-reaching and not only limited to Earth. Destiny knows what happens to every life that was ever lived as his sister Death is sure to claim every single one. Meanwhile, Desire plays games and orchestrates drama and passion to make people aspire to have it all, as their twin Despair shows people what happens to desires unmet or desires not wanted at all. And then we have my personal favorite, Delirium, whose existence is the definition of joyous chaos; undiscriminating and inexplicable where madness is the only freedom. Chaos, however, only befell the realm of Destruction when he had decided to abandon his duties due to an incident (tackled in a later volume).

At the heart of The Sandman is, of course, the eponymous Dream himself, who rules the Dreaming and inspires the land of stories. Any living mind has a fertile imagination that can weave tales. After all, gods with their myths and legends were birthed through the dreams of the people who believe they must exist and therefore they do. This is then the realm which Dream protects and serves. As a character, the King of Dreams is as enigmatic as one would expect from a timeless being who rules the subconscious. Gaiman surely wrote him as someone who is a stickler for rules and duty, but one who is often prone to falling in love with mortals; a few of whom suffered the consequences of becoming a lover to an Endless. Such circumstances become pivotal points throughout the series' run which also explores the complicated dynamics involved between the Endless and specific humans whom they form deeper connections with.

The Sandman: Overture is a prequel to the original series. It's been years in the making and the finished product was just so motherfucking astounding! Gaiman's success with the publication of The Sandman had secured him a position as one of the most influential fantasy writers of all time, specifically for the comics medium. Sure, Gaiman had enjoyed some commercial accolades with his actual novels like American Gods, Good Omens, Stardust, Coraline as well as with his anthologies, but it is The Sandman which, for me, had immortalized him. This is his living legacy that will never be forgotten.

And this was why a prequel was more than a welcome treat to his long-time readers and fans. Gaiman and the artists who worked tirelessly on this masterpiece had not disappointed at all. In OVERTURE, the events of this graphic novel were set before the premise of the first The Sandman story in which Dream of the Endless was held in captivity for ninety-five years by a cult whose leader actually wanted to detain Death but got the wrong sibling instead.

OVERTURE revealed the story as to why Dream was weak enough to get entrapped by a spell. It turned out that he had just come back from a space trip. That's right, the Endless also have intergalactic relations with many galaxies across the cosmos, all of which have a different version and interpretation of them. With six issues, The Sandman: Overture is an ambitious body of work, but one that managed to deliver a lot of promises in its limited bulk of pages. Each issue spans a fascinating tale about Dream's forced adventures to confront the many aspects of his own self. His mission in OVERTURE hinges on helping a star that has 'gone mad' and whose infection is spreading through other constellations and even nearby planets.

I wouldn't necessarily advice new readers to pick up this book without tapping into the original series first, but in case you are one of those people, I do feel the need to caution you that OVERTURE wastes no time on introductions and already opens with sprawling narratives that are interconnected only if you are familiar already with the mythos and these characters that have made appearances in the previous Sandman work.

That said, Gaiman's voice is ever engaging and mysterious, but it also felt more focused than it ever had been back when he began writing The Sandman. I suppose it had something to do with the fact that he had by now mastered his voice for this titular character and the overall arc of the story itself. The premise concerning an intergalactic adventure, however, has to be a new one for Gaiman to tackle based from the scope of The Sandman stories he had written in the past. Most of the standalone arcs in those early volumes were exclusively earth-bound (with the exceptions of events that occurred in dreams). The exception had to be the last volume which was an anthology concerning each Endless. The Dream-centric installment in it was set somewhere in a galaxy where planetary bodies and alien species attended a party, and Dream came with his first lover (and very first heartbreak), Kilala.

I do not want to go into the specifics of what happened in OVERTURE especially since it only had six issues, but I will comment on the outstanding breadth of art and illustrations contributed by the main artist J.H Williams III. Aside from Gaiman writing The Sandman prequel itself, the second most commendable thing and selling point of this project was the artwork.

A collage of sprawling multi-colored landscapes and painfully intricate and boldly etched sceneries can be savored and enjoyed by the readers of OVERTURE who will experience a literal 'feast for the eyes'. The panel layout of the pages was creatively rendered that either emphasized a certain atmosphere for a particular dialogue or scene that was enclosed in it, or enhanced the symbolic representation of what that specific scene was trying to communicate as spelled out by Gaiman's prose.


Since I intend for this to be a spoiler-free review, I suppose all I can really do is to encourage anyone who wants to try their hand on the comics medium to pick up either this prequel or the original run of The Sandman itself. Hopefully, my praises for Gaiman's body of work would serve as enough incentive. It would change your life and the way you would view myths and legends in general in the context of your personal creed and culture when compared to the universal themes that are widespread not just in literature but in the history of stories themselves. I knew that The Sandman certainly challenged my own views and even enhanced my enjoyment.



RECOMMENDED: 9/10

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