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.