Go­ing like a Dream

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What if this is all just a Dream? Neil Gaiman’s comic book uni­verse just got fran­chised.

re­leased OUT NOW! Pub­lisher Ver­tigo Writ­ers Var­i­ous Artists Var­i­ous

one-shot DC’s adult comics im­print Ver­tigo has had its fair share of prob­lems in the last decade, but their lat­est at­tempt at get­ting back on track is their most at­ten­tion-grab­bing ma­noeu­vre yet. Thirty years af­ter the first is­sue of The Sand­man was pub­lished, Ver­tigo are cel­e­brat­ing the an­niver­sary (and their own 25th birth­day) by launch­ing four new on­go­ing se­ries set in the lim­it­less worlds of Neil Gaiman’s cre­ation.

Three of the up­com­ing comics are re­launches of pre­vi­ous Gaiman-re­lated Ver­tigo ti­tles: The Dream­ing, which fol­lows the mas­sive sup­port­ing cast of The Sand­man: Lu­cifer, once again track­ing the dark mis­ad­ven­tures of the ex-ruler of Hell; and Books Of Magic, chart­ing the life of be­spec­ta­cled teenage ma­gi­cian Ti­mothy Hunter. Along­side these is the new voodoo-cen­tric comic House Of Whis­pers. All four ti­tles kick off their sto­ries in the 40-page spe­cial Sand­man Uni­verse, which acts as a com­bined cur­tain-raiser and teaser for each comic, fea­tur­ing con­tri­bu­tions from each of the new cre­ative teams.

The story be­gins with the dis­cov­ery that the myth­i­cal en­tity Dream has gone miss­ing. This pitches both the wak­ing world and the fan­tas­tic realms of the Dream­ing into chaos, as the raven Matthew is sent to find his master, and we’re given glimpses of how other char­ac­ters are be­ing af­fected by the van­ish­ing of the Lord of Dreams, lead­ing to a fi­nal re­veal that’s go­ing to have ma­jor con­se­quences.

For fans of the orig­i­nal se­ries, this is as warm and fa­mil­iar as don­ning a com­fort­able pair of slip­pers, and the four writ­ers (Si Spurrier, Nalo Hop­kin­son, Kat Howard and Dan Wat­ters) have suc­cess­fully cap­tured the style of The Sand­man while also main­tain­ing a dis­tinc­tive voice of their own. They’re helped in this by the im­pres­sive vi­su­als; each of the new artists show­case plenty of cre­ative lay­outs and eye-catch­ing im­agery, with Bilquis Evely and Do­minike “Domo” Stan­ton pro­vid­ing the high­lights.

As a jump­ing-on point for Sand­man newbies, how­ever, this could have done with be­ing a lit­tle more ac­ces­si­ble. There’s a bounty of imag­i­na­tion, mood and quirk­i­ness on dis­play here, but some of the core el­e­ments of Gaiman’s mythol­ogy aren’t prop­erly in­tro­duced, and the loose an­thol­ogy na­ture of the spe­cial leaves some of the se­ries teasers feel­ing less im­pact­ful than oth­ers. The com­bined re­sult is an open­ing act that isn’t as con­fi­dent as the one Gaiman man­aged 30 years ago. But it’s still an eye-catch­ing and in­trigu­ing set-up that hints at promis­ing direc­tions for this new quar­tet of ti­tles. Saxon Bul­lock

Neil Gaiman con­trib­uted the story for the spe­cial, and also helped to choose the dif­fer­ent cre­ative teams.

As warm and fa­mil­iar as don­ning com­fort­able slip­pers

He meant it when he said he had stars in his eyes.

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