Advance Review: Sandman Universe #1 – Where One Dream Blurs Into Another

It’s the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen-ness of Sandman Universe #1 that sends me scurrying down a rabbit hole in Lucien’s Library to see if there ever was any mention of the non-book Wooster at War by PG Wodehouse.

Noting that in one book Jeeves talked of having “dabbled” in World War I, yet Wooster — like PG Wodehouse — seemed to have avoided having to fight, and spend much of World War II interned by the Germans, making broadcasts that were seen as treason, and his books pulled from shelves. And in Lucien’s Library in the Dreaming of books that were never published or even written, one is also missing.

It’s not the only thing wrong with the Dreaming. Daniel, the name of the Endless entity known as Dream, the Sandman, has gone missing. Again. Not for the first time. But in his absence, things are not as they should be. So everyone turns to Matthew the Raven for the big fix.

And so we have a plot: a hunt for Dream. And, just like (yes, I really am going to say this) Marvel’s Hunt for Wolverine, that means a bunch of spinoff series running once a week. But this week it all begins with Sandman Universe #1.

Because, you know, it’s a while since we’ve been to the Dreaming. Even Sandman Overture was a prequel to Sandman. And things have moved on. There are new folk, and old folk, new spaces — and sometimes the spaces are folk. or something else entirely, like monstress Dora, who only shows a little monstrosity physically, most of the time.

And this reminds me of the structure of one of Neil Gaiman‘s earliest for DC, Books of Magic, creating a story structure that will allow you to spread out and explore a wide variety of characters and areas, skipping from one to the other. And this similarity was underlined when, in the so-called real world, we get familiar face Rose Psychic and Tim Hunter, in a place that also seems straight out of Coal Hill high school, a trip to find just what Lucifer does with ravens and where their collective name derives, and Louisiana lesbian families and underwater deities that smack of Zatanna.

So there’s a lot of different places to explore, and the artists have done a fantastic job of trying to draw the unimaginable, with page layouts crashing in an attempt to portray the heavens and hells and everything in the middle. The one downside is that, unlike Books of Magic where there was a contrast of styles from each book’s artist, the variety of writers and artists for this book, who will spinoff their own titles from it, seem too similar.

The delineation in writing, in art, is less clear, probably helped by the consistent colouring from Mat Lopes. This makes a smoother reading sensation but also suggests that everyone’s sharp edges have been filed off to get rid of the bumps — with a possible exception of Tom Fowler, who gives Tim a little Philip Bond injection. But just as (I’m doing it again) this Wednesday’s Fantastic Four seems more like another issue of Marvel Two-in-One, so Sandman Universe feels like an issue of The Dreaming rather than, say, the standout nature of Sandman Overture. It’s a solid comic that builds its world split off into different areas which will no doubt now go on to conquer — but it as a reader, it feels more homogenised, rather than the cream rising to the top.

Is everyone getting along too much?

Here’s the solicitation…

(W) Si Spurrier, Nalo Hopkinson, Kat Howard, Dan Watters (A) Bilquis Evely, Dominike “Domo” Stanton, Tom Fowler, Max Fiumara, Sebastian Fiumara (CA) Jae Lee
From the mind of New York Times #1 bestselling author Neil Gaiman comes a new world filled with dreams, nightmares and wonderful characters living together in a shared universe for a new story unlike anything we’ve ever seen before.
A rift between worlds has opened, revealing a space beyond the Dreaming. Meanwhile, a book from Lucien’s library is discovered by a group of children in the waking world where it should not exist. Lucien calls for Matthew the Raven to seek out their master, Daniel, Lord of Dreams.
As Matthew flies across the Waking World and others, he finds a young boy named Timothy Hunter who, in his dreams, has become the world’s most powerful magician-but in his nightmares he is the world’s greatest villain. A new House has appeared in the realm of the Dreaming: the House of Whispers, with its proprietor, a fortune-teller called Erzulie. And elsewhere, Lucifer has fallen again, only this time he might be trapped in a Hell of his own design.
Spiraling out of this special issue will be four all-new series set in the Sandman Universe. It all starts here!In Shops: Aug 08, 2018
SRP: $4.99

This suggests a lot that just doesn’t happen — not in this issue, anyway. Kids with Lucien’s book? Not yet. Timothy Hunter has no such dreams specified. Yet. And no new House yet… I mean, there’s something but a House? Say… are issue 1 solicits spoiling what happens in issue 2?

About Rich Johnston

Chief writer and founder of Bleeding Cool. Father of two. Comic book clairvoyant. Political cartoonist.

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