Sandman Overture – Neil Gaiman, J.H. Williams III, Dave Stewart

I’ve said already that I’ve been on a bit of a Neil Gaiman binge this year. The first thing I read by him was American Gods, which I read back in 2017 but more recently, as part of my book club, I’ve read through Norse Mythology and Neverwhere, both of which I’ve really enjoyed. Sandman Overture is my first Gaiman comic, and as a prequel to this work it seemed like an excellent place to start.

It’s also an excellent place to finish if you aren’t new to Sandman. The plot, or how I’ve interpreted it, is about the end and the beginning of creation, the universe and all thats in it both burns out and is created anew, and its not until the final issue that all the strands and characters ramblings begin to make sense.

I’ll state now that its not the easiest of graphic novels to read, possibly due to needing to know who some of the characters are beyond how they present here and some of the relationships between Morpheus and his “family”, although the feeling is that knowing these things would be beneficial in only understanding the reasons for the actions of those who Morpheus interacts with and how they feel about the central figure of the book. Another reason its difficult to read is that its creators have decided to play with the medium available to them, there are foldouts in a few places, completely blank pages and even a double spread where you have to turn the book through 180 degrees in order to follow what happens.

All of which can be a bit overwhelming, add in the sheer amount of artwork available on (almost) every page and the detail within those pages and you’d be forgiven for taking the book in in smaller chunks in order to appreciate the work that has gone into it fully. It really is an utterly beautiful piece of work, J.H. Williams III’s art and Dave Stewarts’ colours really pop off the page and the way in which each character has their own style of speech bubble, complete with unique coloured background/text. I realise none of this is unique to this particular piece of work or the creators here but the combination of all of the above makes Sandman Overture one of the most visually striking comic books I’ve ever read.

As a concept its definetly gotten me interested in exploring the character further so its yet another series I’ve now started that I feel compelled to complete (with two of Alan Moore’s works, Swamp Thing and Promethea, also being among that list) and I look forward to reading obtaining Sandman Vol.1 at some point in the future (although its not like I have a lack of books to read!)

Books, Close Encounters Book Club

Neverwhere – Neil Gaiman

Neverwhere was the Close Encounters “Books Without Pictures” book club for March-April (as in we read it in March, meet in April). The meeting was originally scheduled for April 3, but had to be re-scheduled due to illness. So, we’re were going to meet tonight, April 10th, but I’ve been unable to go for family reasons. Even so, heres some of my thoughts on Neverwhere.

I’ll start by saying that, despite being by Gaiman, Neverwhere didn’t leave much of an impression on me. I mean, I definetly enjoyed it, but I took very little away from it, certainly less so than I did Day of the Triffids. My most prevalent thoughts (and bear in mind I finished this over two weeks ago now) were that I really liked Gaimans use of locations. Knightsbridge becoming “Nights Bridge” and somewhere to fear is the main example I can think of right now. I found that whole aspect genuinely fun, likewise I enjoyed the use of abandoned places basically becoming “London Below” as there is so much of our capital that appears on those “Forgotten Cities” style shows that Gaiman populating forgotten Underground stations or the sewer system below the city made them feel alive and vivid. Admitedly, as someone who’s only really been to St Pancras, a few underground stations and then some of the touristy spots like Harrods or the Natural History Museum, some of the places I just know by their name so maybe his use of them is lost on me a little, but yeah, I found that really fun.

The other aspect that really stood out was that his female characters were pretty strong. Obviously there’s Hunter, the legendary bodyguard, but even Door is capable and her soft nature and small stature belies her strong will and moral sensibilities. She’s the one character that ever shows Richard any remorse for the situation he has been dragged into and ultimately its her own strength of character that redeems the entire situation and fools Islington.

I’d have liked to get to know the Marquis more, I know Gaiman wrote an additional short story but I’ve not had opportunity to read that, I’m not even sure if its in the edition of the book that I have (I’ve leant it to one of the other members of the book club, so will check when he’s finished with it and I see him again). Likewise I really liked Old Bailey but we didn’t get half as much time with him as I’d have liked.

For next month the group has voted on “Red Earth and Pouring Rain” by Vikram Chandra, I’ve never heard of this book nor the author before and a quick look at its synopsis makes it sound really interesting and totally different to what I’d normally read: Combining Indian myths, epic history, and the story of three college kids in search of America, a narrative includes the monkey’s story of an Indian poet and warrior and an American road novel of college students driving cross-country.