The Absolute Sandman, vol.3

I’m not much of a graphic novel reader. It’s not that I don’t like them, just that I haven’t read many. It’s a whole genre I haven’t explored, partly because it seems like a big commitment (those who are fans of the genre seem to have a lot of knowledge about its history that I simply lack) and partly because I feel ignorant about the artwork. What if I’m not appreciating it to its full extent? So I’ve read some of the obvious ones — Art Spiegelman’s Maus and Gene Luen Yang’s American Born Chinese, for instance — but never explored much further. 

Then, a couple of Christmases ago, my husband got me the first collection of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series, put out in an enormous, beautiful hardback by DC Comics. I admit I was somewhat taken aback. Yes, I am a Neil Gaiman fan. Yes, I’ve read a couple of graphic novels. But this was a… comic book. A huge, beautiful, dark, grim, funny, mysterious… shush, I’m reading. And with that, I was completely hooked.

I’ve been lucky enough to receive each volume as it’s come out, and Gaiman’s story of Morpheus, the king of dreams, and his brothers and sisters (Death, Despair, Destruction, Delirium, Desire, and Destiny) twines into other stories: classical myths, like Orpheus, or new takes on Biblical stories, or simply fresh tales that seem familiar because they come from elements that are in every story-lover’s heart. For Gaiman, the world of dreams is the world of stories: half true, half invention.

This volume, the third, is the best yet. I am not the best judge of artwork in a graphic novel, but the artwork in this one took my breath away, demanded my attention, and made me realize that the story itself would be diminished without the pictures (and for me, that’s saying something.) The story “Ramadan,” a new tale about the caliph Haroun al-Raschid and his meeting with the lord of the dream world, was brilliant in both story and beauty. The work was original, often funny, often gruesome, classic Gaiman, and the artistry was a perfect match. If you think you even might enjoy these, I recommend them very highly. My only hesitation is that they’re expensive, and I don’t know whether libraries would carry something like this. See what you can find. It’s well worth reading. 

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3 Responses to The Absolute Sandman, vol.3

  1. Teresa says:

    Oh, I’ve wanted to read these for ages, but my local library system only has the first three in the series, and I haven’t wanted to get hooked on a story that I’ll have lots of trouble completing. Do they work well on their own, or out of order?

  2. Jenny says:

    Only three of these hardback volumes in the Absolute Sandman series have come out yet. The fourth is due out this November (and I bet I get it for Christmas!) If you mean that they only have the first three comic books, that’s a different story.

    Yes, they work well out of order, though certain story arcs should be read in order. Yes, they work well on their own. I think comic books can’t count on everyone having read from issue #1, and Gaiman’s storytelling approach lends itself well to dipping in. But if there’s any way you can start at the beginning, I would, just to get the sense of background that builds and gets filled in bit by bit as you go.

  3. Teresa says:

    Alas, it’s only the first three comic books that my library got–makes me wonder why they even bothered. :-(

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