the sandman universe

REVIEW: Audible’s “The Sandman”

Making an audio adaptation of The Sandman seems like a great idea. There’s a lot of ways to convey fantasy settings using just sound and it feels like the perfect medium for The Sandman. I mean, it’s a series about the power of stories and what better way to experience the story than to close your eyes and let the sounds wash over you, right? And, in all honesty, that’s basically what Audible’s adaptation of The Sandman is – though, I’d argue it skews a bit closer to an audiobook than a true audio drama, but for most people, that’ll be just fine. For me, I enjoyed the adaptation but I wish it embraced the power of audio dramas a bit more than it does and relied less on narration to explain the “missing” visuals. (4 out of 5 wands.)

(NOTE: Mild spoilers may follow.)

The Sandman (written by Neil Gaiman, adapted by Dirk Maggs)
When The Sandman, also known as Lord Morpheus—the immortal king of dreams, stories and the imagination—is pulled from his realm and imprisoned on Earth by a nefarious cult, he languishes for decades before finally escaping. Once free, he must retrieve the three “tools” that will restore his power and help him to rebuild his dominion, which has deteriorated in his absence. As the multi-threaded story unspools, The Sandman descends into Hell to confront Lucifer (Michael Sheen), chases rogue nightmares who have escaped his realm, and crosses paths with an array of characters from DC comic books, ancient myths, and real-world history, including: Inmates of Gotham City’s Arkham Asylum, Doctor Destiny, the muse Calliope, the three Fates, William Shakespeare (Arthur Darvill), and many more.

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SCRIPT REVIEW: “Sandman” by Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio

I don’t normally review screenplays – and I especially don’t normally review screenplays that were never produced. But I am making an exception here. Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman has had a long road to being adapted for another medium. A film version languished in development hell for 20-some years before finally getting turned into an upcoming Netflix TV series and an Audible audio drama. One of the writing teams attached to the film was Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio, most famous for writing Shrek and the Pirates of the Caribbean series. In 1996, they wrote a draft of a Sandman film. That draft is publicly available for reading on their website, Wordplayer. It is for this reason that I feel comfortable reading and reviewing the script – the writers have put it out there and, at that point, it’s fair game to be looked at. And, in all fairness, I actually think their attempt at adapting The Sandman is a relatively good one. Obviously, those comics are better suited for a TV series, but as far as film adaptations go, it’s pretty solid. (3.5 out of 5 wands.)

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REVIEW: Neil Gaiman’s “The Sandman” – Volumes 1-3

From the first time I read Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman in 2013, I adored the series. It felt like this beautiful mixture of traditional prose literature and graphic novels and it was something I hadn’t seen in any of the comics I’d read to that point. The series is as much a story about Morpheus, the Lord of Dreams, and his other siblings as it is about stories, themselves. It’s one of those series that has remained popular over the 30 years since it first debuted – and for good reason. So, in light of the imminent release of Audible’s audio adaptation of the series, I felt it a good time to go back to those first few volumes (those that are being adapted for the series) and take a look at how they read seven years after I first read them. In short, they still hold up remarkably well, even if parts of them haven’t aged the best. The Sandman is a great series and it’s impressive how much of its magic is present in these first twenty issues.

(NOTE: There will be mild spoilers for the first 20 issues/three volumes of The Sandman.)

A rich blend of modern myth and dark fantasy in which contemporary fiction, historical drama and legend are seamlessly interwoven, THE SANDMAN follows the people and places affected by Morpheus, the Dream King, as he mends the cosmic–and human–mistakes he’s made during his vast existence.

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REVIEW: “The Dreaming, Vol. 3 – One Magic Movement” by Simon Spurrier

dreaming vol 3I have consistently loved Simon Spurrier’s run on The Dreaming. Of all the Sandman Universe titles, it’s the one that feels the most similar in tone to Neil Gaiman’s original Sandman run. Much like Gaiman, Spurrier has been using his run on the title to muse on the very nature of storytelling. His run has been as much about the art of storytelling as it has been about the Dreaming, and its inhabitants. It’s routinely been one of my favorite titles to return to and when I heard that this volume would be the final one in his run, I was a mixture of sad and excited. It would be sad to see him go, but I was excited to see how he’d wrap up this story he’s been telling since the very first issue. And here we are, at the end. And how is that ending? Well, it’s everything I could’ve hoped for. Spurrier has taken all the threads he’d left dangling and woven them into a wholly satisfying conclusion, ending this story while leaving the door wide open for future creative teams to tell new stories. It’s simply superb. (Mild spoilers follow.)

The Dreaming, Vol. 3: One Magic Moment (written by Simon Spurrier, illustrated by Bilquis Evely (issues 15, 17, 19-20), Marguerite Sauvage (Issues 16, 18) Dani Strips (Issue 13), and Matias Bergara (Issue 14)) 
As the second year of the Sandman Universe begins, the sentient algorithm known as Wan is now the acknowledged lord of Dream’s realm, and unquestioned ruler of all his subjects. It’s a huge problem that Wan is completely insane, and more than capable of wiping out all life in the Dreaming. What can Abel, the only one who knows Wan’s secret, do about it? And what must he do to poor Matthew the Raven to put his plan into action? Collects The Dreaming #13-20.

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REVIEW: “Lucifer, Volume 2 – The Divine Tragedy”

lucifer 2Lucifer is such an interesting character, not just in The Sandman Universe, but in general, and I’m quite a fan of stories that portray the character as something more than just an ultimate prince of darkness, but one with true nuance who might actually have a point in his ongoing feud with God. This has always been what DC has done with this version of the character, originally developed by Neil Gaiman, then further developed by Mike Carey, and now written by Dan Watters. As evidenced by the previous volume, Watters has an excellent grasp on what makes Lucifer a compelling character – imbuing this version with lots of vulnerabilities to go along with his massive amounts of power. In this volume, we get a direct continuation of the previous volume, furthering the story of the Morningstar and his newly-discovered family. It’s a great continuation of that storyline and a really great comic in its own right. (Mild spoilers for Lucifer: The Divine Tragedy follow!)

Lucifer, Vol.2: The Divine Tragedy (written by Dan Watters; illustrated by Max and Sebastian Fiumara and Kelley Jones)
God is angry. Lucifer has committed an unthinkable act of sacrilege, and now the forces of Heaven have left him with nowhere to turn but the lands of the dead. Much has changed since Lucifer’s last visit to his former kingdom. Meanwhile: a cherub appears in a motel room, a witch queen walks the Earth for the first time in millennia, and Mazikeen gets to break a finger or two. Plus, things in Hell are heating up with too many potential leaders as Mazikeen prepares to fend off a usurper with assistance from an unexpected ally. But with Heaven and Hell so engrossed in their own affairs, who’s keeping track of what’s happening on Earth? Collects Lucifer #7-13.

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REVIEW: “The Dreaming, Vol. 2 – Empty Shells” by Simon Spurrier

The Dreaming Empty ShellsAs I said in my review of the first volume of this new run of The Dreaming, one of my favorite things about Neil Gaiman’s original Sandman run was the way the comic’s story was partially about the very nature of stories. Gaiman played with various structures to examine the fabric of storytelling and why it’s always been such an effective means of communication. Everything else was the icing on this theme of a cake. This examination of storytelling is one of the key things that brings readers back to those comics time and time again. Simon Spurrier continued this approach in the first volume of his run on The Dreaming, and he continues it in this next volume – a volume that helps bridge the story of The Sandman with this new story being told here. It’s a really good graphic novel.

The Dreaming, Vol 2: Empty Shells (written by Simon Spurrier, art by Bilquis Evely and Abigail Larson)
As his kingdom crumbles and his subjects search for him in desperation, Dream of the Endless wanders the Earth as an exile from the realm he is meant to embody. Here, far from the Gates of Horn and Ivory, there are wonders and horrors that even an immortal cannot imagine—until they experience them firsthand.

When an ill-fated romance collapses, Dream is vulnerable to exploitation by sinister forces. And when the heart of an Endless breaks, worlds break with it. Meanwhile, as the Dreaming’s abandoned inhabitants hunt their absent sovereign, the realm’s reluctant new ruler strains against the confines of its throne, threatening to undo the very reality that supports it. What happens to a fairy tale’s inhabitants when their author goes missing?

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REVIEW: “Books of Magic”, vol. 1: Moveable Type

791348._sx1280_ql80_ttd_I never read Neil Gaiman’s original 4-issue run of Books of Magic, nor did I read any of the subsequent runs, so, naturally, of the four titles initially announced for the first wave of Sandman Universe series, this one was the one I was least interested in. It’s not that I wasn’t interested in the premise – I love a good story about people learning how to do magic – but it was more the idea that, due to my lack of knowledge of any of the previous stories, I’d be totally lost going into this comic and find myself unable to enjoy it for what it is. Thankfully, that’s not what happened. Unfortunately, it is still my least favorite ‘volume 1’ of the three in the Sandman Universe that I’ve read so far. (Mild spoilers follow!)

Books of Magic, Volume 1: Moveable Type (written by Kat Howard, illustrated by Tom Fowley, colors by Jordan Boyd) 
While Tim’s trying to study and attract the cutest girl in his class, there are cultists who want to kill him, believing his magical powers will eventually corrupt him, turning him into a merciless mage that will bring upon the end of magic forever! But when a mysterious new substitute teacher for his school called Dr. Rose wants to mentor and educate him in the magical arts so that he can discover the secrets behind the Books of Magic, Tim believes he has the tools to find his missing mother. Is this sudden guidance too good to be true, and what connection–if any–does Rose have to the disappearance of Tim’s teacher Mr. Brisby?

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REVIEW: “Lucifer, Volume 1: The Infernal Comedy” (The Sandman Universe)

91qts0qrbulAs I’ve previously said, I love Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series. It’s one of my favorite long-running comic series and it had such a perfect ending as written. I didn’t read any of the spin-off material that came out during the original run of the series – such as the original Book of Magic miniseries or Mike Carey’s Lucifer run. But with the launch of The Sandman Universe, it seemed a perfect time to hop onboard the Lucifer train and see what his comic was all about. I gotta say, this first volume of the newest Lucifer series turned out to be a pretty great first Lucifer story for me to read. (Slight spoilers follow.)

This is the one true tale of what befell the Prince of Lies, the Bringer of Light–Lucifer. The blind, destitute old man, who lives in a small boarding house in a quiet little town, where nothing is quite what it seems and no one can leave. He’s trapped, you see? Trapped in a bizarre prison with no memory of how he got there or why. As the Devil soon discovers, the answers lay in wait with his estranged son, Caliban… too bad Lucifer can’t find him. Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, Detective John Decker is drawn into a shadowy conspiracy whose widely varied members share a single common purpose: to kill Lucifer Morningstar.

From crime and mystery author Dan Watters (The Shadow, Deep Roots) with art from Max Fiumara and Sebastian Fiumara (Abe Sapien, The Amazing Spider-Man, All-Star Batman) bring us the next chapter in the story everyone’s favorite son of God.

This is the first Lucifer comic I’d ever read. I was familiar with the character from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series, but I’d never actually read any of the character’s solo stories. So, as this volume began, I did feel a bit confused as to what was going on. Watters definitely throws readers into the deep end in this story, but it quickly becomes clear that he has a well-thought-out masterplan that proves to be very accessible for new readers – and very rewarding, I suspect, for longtime readers.

In this story, Lucifer has had a son and has abandoned that son in the past – a fact that was alluded to within “The Sandman Universe #1” one-shot (also included in this volume). To right this wrong, he seeks to reunite the son with his mother. Naturally, things don’t go according to plan and Lucifer ends up in a prison he can’t escape from, being held hostage by someone from his past with an ax to grind. And when you’re the literal devil, that’s a lot of people.

The story unfolds in a very interesting way. As I said, it starts off right in the middle of everything, with Lucifer lost in this other world, missing his memories and trying to unravel everything. As the story goes on and the characters all figure out what is going on, the audience is clued in with a series of flashbacks – and a B-plot that ties in directly with the A-plot – and everything unfolds in a very interesting way and ultimately leads to a pretty climactic finale that perfectly sets up the next arc in this ongoing series.

Watters’ writing isn’t the only highlight of this book, however. Accompanying his writing is artwork from Max Fiumara and Sebastian Fiumara. The artwork from these two definitely elevates Watters’ script into something befitting of the devil. The art perfectly builds off of the established features of the Lucifer character – a character designed to be reminiscent of David Bowie – while also adding some new things and perfectly fleshing out the world with gorgeous settings and interesting characters. Watters’ script and Max and Sebastian Fiumara’s art is a match made in heaven – or, perhaps, in hell.

All in all, this first volume of Lucifer is a great start to this ongoing season. It’s a great jumping on point for readers new to the ongoing story of this character and it appears to be a great return to the character for preexisting fans. The story told within this volume is delightful, mixing Christian mythology with The Sandman Universe’s narrative flair. It’s equal parts moving, suspenseful, and bloody. It’s a great book for a great devil.

4 out of 5 wands.

REVIEW: “The Dreaming, Volume 1: Pathways and Emanations” (The Sandman Universe)

the dreaming vol 1One of the most appealing parts of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series was that it was one of those rare long-running comic books that had a definitive end. It ran for a total of 75 issues and, for a while, that was it. Over the years, Gaiman had returned a few times to the universe in order to pen a short spin-off here or a short prequel comic there, but there had never really been anything major that expanded on the world of The Sandman – aside from Mike Carey’s equally long-running Lucifer series, spun off from the character’s few appearances in the main Sandman run. So, when it was announced that Gaiman would be teaming up with Vertigo to launch The Sandman Universe, a collection of four series inspired by and expanding upon the original Sandman run, I was a bit skeptical. Of the four titles that were revealed, there were two that interested me the most: Simon Spurrier’s The Dreaming and Dan Watters’ Lucifer. As The Dreaming was the first of the four books to launch, it’ll be the first of the four that I’ll cover here. In volume one of The Dreaming, Spurrier takes us back into the realm of the Dreaming where Daniel, the current Lord of Dreams, has disappeared just as things are going wrong. And it only gets crazier from there.

The Sandman Universe – The Dreaming, Volume 1: Pathways and Emanations 
Written by: Simon Spurrier, illustrated by: Bilquis Evely, colors by: Mat Lopes 
Lord Daniel’s absence triggers a series of crimes and calamities that consume the lives of those already tangled in his fate. Until he is found, his realm’s residents must protect its broken borders alone. But the most senior storytellers are tormented by invasive secrets, the warden Lucien is doubting his own mind, and beyond the gates, something horrific awaits with tooth and talon. Only Dora, the monstrous, finds opportunity in madness, stealing dreams for the highest bidder. But she has no idea how deep the danger lies. Meanwhile, in Daniel’s gallery, something new is growing…

Written by fan-favorite author Si Spurrier (Motherlands, Suicide Squad) with breathtaking art by standout artist Bilquis Evely (Batman, Wonder Woman). The first book in The Sandman Universe kicks off with fireworks as The Dreaming literally tears itself apart!

The Sandman Universe is a new series of books curated by Neil Gaiman for DC Vertigo. Conjuring epic storytelling and immersing readers into the evolving world of the Dreaming, The Sandman Universe begins anew with four new ongoing series, existing in a shared universe, building upon Gaiman’s New York Times best-selling series that lyrically weaved together stories of dreams and magic.

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