Having recently completed a course on graphic novels, I’m on a total comics kick and Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman: Overture has given fuel to my fire. J.H. Williams III’s illustrations are breathtaking – and really, what else did we expect? Brainteasers like upside-down panels, endless staircases, and hidden faces create a space that feels truly dimensional. But Williams hasn’t shucked old school penciling methods completely; he juxtaposes his signature futuristic, collage-like panels with flat, psychedelic drawings as a way of having two (or three, or infinite) worlds meet. And the story line? Classic Gaiman. He points out in the introduction that he wrote Overture as a prequel to the entire series, so that fans and newbies alike could experience the story in its fullest. I think he succeeded.
Full disclosure: before reading it, I suspected that Overture was a gimmick. The original series is a classic, why not let well enough alone? But I couldn’t have been more wrong. The characters in this one are stellar (kind of a pun, since some of them are stars) and the story has all the weight of myth and the surprising inventiveness of the original stories. My favorite Sandman book ever? Maybe not. And there are those devoted fans who understandably believe that some questions posed by the original series should remain unanswered. But for me, reading Overture was like a re-initiation into a universe I have so missed. I strongly recommend you read it, for free at your public library.