Comic Review – Sandman Universe #1

Sandman Universe 1 Cover

The only real flaw with Sandman Universe #1 is a presumption that the reader is already familiar with the universe of The Sandman. This is a fairly safe assumption, however, as the original Sandman series by Neil Gaiman and a host of fantastic artists is one of the few undisputed classics of the graphic novel medium. Thankfully, what little information the book itself doesn’t give you is easily looked up on-line. But in the interest of speed and keeping you reading, I will explain…

There are seven beings called The Endless. They are personifications of forces we believe need to have an intelligence behind them, like death or destiny. So there is a Death and a Destiny. And there is a Dream, who is known by many names, including The Sandman. Dream is the personification of creation and imagination. He is the Prince of Stories and his realm, The Dreaming, is the place where gods are born, ideas are forged and anything is possible.

Sandman Universe 1 Page 1

The Dreaming is also home to many strange beings who came from elsewhere to become a part of its stories. There are the brothers Cain and Able (yes, THAT Cain and Able), who safeguard Mysteries and Secrets and the houses that hold them. There is Eve the raven woman, who guards her own sinister house when it is not a sinister cave. At the center of it all, in the ghostly castle at the center of The Dreaming, lies the Library of Dreams where every story ever written and never written can be found. And at the center of that may be found Lucien – the Librarian of Dreams and the servant Dream leaves in charge of his realm when he goes off to do business in The Waking World.

As the issue opens, Lucien is informed that a crack has appeared in the sky of The Dreaming and the people are fearful that history may be about to repeat itself, as The Dreaming was all but destroyed in a similar manner once after Dream was bound and held captive for several decades. With Dream not responding to Lucien’s summons, Matthew The Raven – the messenger of Dream – goes forth to find his master by following the magical bond that connects them. This leads Matthew into The Waking World and through a number of scenes that suggest whatever forces are changing The Dreaming are also altering the rest of reality as well…

Sandman Universe 1 Page 6

What follows sets up the various spin-off series that will make up the new shared reality of the revamped Vertigo Comics universe. Matthew and Lucien will continue to try and solve the mystery of Dream’s disappearance in The Dreaming. The adventures of newbie magician Tim Hunter (another of Gaiman’s creations) will continue in a new Books of Magic series. A new house, overseen by the Vodou deity Erzulie, will be introduced to The Dreaming in House of Whispers. Finally Lucifer, the fallen angel and one-time ruler of Hell, will once again headline his own series that will have nothing to do with the recent Fox television series that was VERY loosely based on the original Lucifer series that spun out of The Sandman.

Of the four stories we see here, it is the one setting up The Dreaming that attracts the most attention, largely because it promises to directly continue the story introduced here. It is Lucifer that is the hardest to get a read on, being so alien in reference even to those who read the most recent Lucifer series by Holly Black and Richard Kadrey. Strangely enough, House of Whispers looks the most intriguing despite barely tying into the narrative of this issue, thanks to some eye-catching artwork. Even the weak link – the section with Tim Hunter – is not bad and it suffers only because of how short it is and how disconnected it is from the main story, with Matthew The Raven basically saying “This looks interesting, but I can’t stop to help this kid.”

So what’s the verdict? If you’re a fan of The Sandman and Neil Gaiman, Sandman Universe #1 will prove a welcome return to form and an exciting promise of what dreams may come. Based on what we see here, this will be one of those rare anniversary events that will live up to the legend of what inspired it. If this is your first time venturing into the Vertigo Universe, you should be fine, but you may want to treat yourself to the original Sandman books that lay the foundation for what we see here anyway.

8/10

Sandman Universe #1 releases on August 8, 2018!


Written by The Critic The Internet Deserves, but not the one it needs right now…. Matt Morrison. He’s a smart-ass guardian. A sarcastic protector. A Snark Knight.

Comic Review – Deathbed #1

Deathbed #1 Cover

When I first saw the cover of Deathbed #1, I was thrilled. Joshua Williamson is one of my favorite writers right now, and if you haven’t been reading his run on The Flash, you should be. Riley Rossmo, likewise, is an artist whose work I’ve always found enjoyable, particularly on the highly-underrated Constantine, The Hellblazer.

That thrill quickly gave rise to dread as I opened the book and we were given our first look at the book’s protagonist, Valentine Richards. I have a general rule of thumb about how any comic book which features an image of a woman sitting on the toilet in its first issue should probably be put down immediately. This sort of thing seems to be a trope in every independent comic for mature readers that is determined to prove how dangerous and edgy it is going to be. I don’t know why, but this image seems to come up with frightening regularity and only the reputation of the creators kept me going.

Thankfully, Deathbed quickly moves past this image and on to better things. It also, it should be noted, has nothing to do with the infamously cheesy 1977 horror movie about a bed that eats people.

Our focus lies on Valentine Richards – an aspiring novelist turned reporter turned biography ghost-writer, who is sick of telling other people’s stories instead of her own. Unfortunately, with her contract at her current reporting gig up, she’s forced to take a job writing the memoirs of Antonio Luna – a famous adventurer who she’s assured is like Doc Savage, James Bond and Teddy Roosevelt rolled into one. Yet somehow, she’s never heard of him.

Deathbed #1 Gallery Scene

(Click on the above image to see it full-size, in another window.)

Valentine arrives at Luna’s mansion on a dark and stormy night. Taken to the master bedroom, Valentine finds the 90 year old Luna at death’s door and apparently ready to tell the unlikely story of his life. However, Luna has another purpose in seeking out a writer to tell his tale – one that seems likely to give Valentine a story of her own to tell!

This first issue is largely concerned with setting up the series, so there’s not much in the way of action. This is surprising, given Joshua Williamson’s usual scripts are packed full of improbable action sequences but it is early yet. As far as laying the ground-work goes, this issue does a fantastic job of showing us everything we need to know about our characters without telling as much. This is because Williamson is one of an increasingly rare few writers who seem to trust their artist to be as much of a storyteller as them.

Case in point. There is a rather gorgeous two-page spread of Valentine walking past several portraits of Antonio Luna from his glory days. This tells us far more about who Antonio Luna is than any piece of expository dialogue ever could. Likewise, we learn far more about Valentine by the questions she asks and the internal monologue about the deeper meaning behind each question than we do by her conversation with her editor.

Bottom Line: If this first issue is any indication, Deathbed will be one heck of a read.

9/10

Deathbed #1 releases February 21, 2018.


Written by The Critic The Internet Deserves, but not the one it needs right now…. Matt Morrison. He’s a smart-ass guardian. A sarcastic protector. A Snark Knight.