The Sandman: Overture Deluxe Special Edition by Neil Gaiman and JH Williams III (Vertigo, ISBN 978-1401248693, November 2015, $24.99). The working title was Sandman: Zero. Those who remember the grand and glorious days of print publications recall that the first issue of a magazine or newspaper was unnumbered and published only in order to register the copyright or trademark. Such ashcan versions were called Issue Zero.
Has it already been 25 years since Gaiman’s The Sandman first appeared in print? Yes, it has. And now Morpheus, The Dream Lord in all his many and varied forms, is back where it all began.
Each illustrated page exists as a splash page of color and form, a montage of time and space. Williams’ art is a masterful rendering of Gaiman’s story, heavily influenced by Jim Steranko and Jack Kirby, with a little Peter Max and Andy Warhol thrown in for effect.
As the Dream Lord journeys to his destiny, his cat-self follows. On the way they meet a girl-child named Hope who rides upon the dream-cat, symbolizing that hope rides upon The Sandman. The Sandman is both the cure and the cause of the end of everything and he has been since the beginning.
There is a little of Doctor Who in The Dream Lord, in his long dark coat and know-it-all demeanor, and the ruby amulet he wears is reminiscent of the All-Seeing Eye of Agamoto in Stan Lee’s and Steve Ditko’s Doctor Strange.
Can the Sandman learn to kill? Must he kill to protect the dreaming? If not him, then who?
In the beginning was the dream. And the dream became flesh.
Dream’s family isn’t much different than most typical modern families. It is dysfunctional and frightening. Father Time. Mother Night. Brother Destiny and Sister Desire. Brother Destruction. Sister Delirium. We all know people like that.
Much of Gaiman’s work—Neverwhere, Coraline, American Gods—is surreal, and The Sandman stories are no exception. Time and space are different in Gaiman’s imagination than in reality, though reality and dream often intersect. Gaiman’s storyline twists and turns and so do the illustrations and the words themselves. JH Williams III perfectly captures Gaiman’s vision in these pages. The book is a visual artist’s dream come true, and a must-have for any comics collector.