This post is the second of three dedicated to this book because there is a phenomenal amount of material to discuss and artistry, I struggle to express and limit my words to. The third post will focus on the colouring and artistic language of the book.
“One day, perhaps, we will have become legends.
We’ll pass this way outside of space or time,
When what they’ll know of us will just be questions
They’ll carve our deeds in stone. Build us in rhyme.”
It is not often you read such elegant words of poetry in a comic. Almost equating the two mediums in that very sentence infers a sense of artistic hierarchy, but graphic art is as much an art as any other. A stanza has its place in a comic book as it does in a book of collected poetry. Neil Gaiman tells a story using various techniques and Overture is an example of how to set the scene, deliver an internal monologue and build an exciting dialogue. The overall narrative may seem incongruent but the ethereal nature to it and vividly imaginative ideas help us navigate this flight of fantasy. Let alone how phenomenally well JH Williams III’s artwork manoeuvres in and out of these concepts. Through all these writing devices there lies a story, one that relates intimately to the original pages of Sandman and brings an insight into Dream’s interactions with others and his troubling siblings. This book acts as a sequel and in it’s finale provides a page found at the very start of the original:
This is essentially a book about seeking solace and advice from friends and family in the process of learning from ones mistakes. Our central character Dream fails to murder a vortex, an aberration that traverses the rules of reality and fantasy, and in turn, this inaction, causes a star descends into madness. The repercussions of this spiral into lunacy and mass destruction, ultimately leading to the end of the universe. It is up to Dream to discover a solution to a problem that he failed to envisage so long ago. At first he is resolute and determined to go at it alone but as different versions of him meet to discuss the problem and a feline version of him becomes his escort. On his journey to see his parents, which involved coercing the stars to send him into a black hole to visit his mother, he saves a young girl from monsters that murdered her father in the foray of the drunken star. Her name is Hope and she represents the nurturing side of Dream, as once she was the nuisance that asked too many questions but becomes the conduit to the salvation of the universe. Quite similarly, his siblings are also held to a high degree of disdain, so much so that he only visits his sister Delirium voluntarily. That does not bode too well as she advises him that stars do not like Piggables, which are pigs made out of vegetables.
I do enjoy the fact that all of the brothers and sisters have names beginning with D: Dream, Desire, Destiny, Delight, Delirium, Despair and Destruction. It is Dream’s relationship with Desire that is most intriguing, especially as his mother states that they are so similar. There is a sense of caring from Desire all of the way through and even in issue one she relays her concerns for Dream to their brother Destiny. As much as we begin to understand Dream through Desire, it is quite obvious that he desperately dislikes her and refuses assistance. There are comments throughout about how he must take responsibility and do this alone, even being mistrusting of the Dream cat. In hindsight that was not so stubborn as once thought because she turns out to be none other than Desire herself. Whilst Dream is caught in the Black Hole, it is Desire who creates a vessel that exists out of the real world and has numerous species saved from extinction that serve as the catalysts to Dream’s deliverance. Their relationship remains very strained that even at the very end, Desire’s final words are, “You know what kills me? Only you’ll remember that you and I saved the universe. I sure as hell wont.” Her love for her brother does not extend that far and with good reason too as Dream refuses to forgive her subterfuge even at the end.
Balancing these very real life relationship problems in a world full of mathematical genius bacterial complexes and solar plasma globs is an arduous task. But they serve as anchors in a world so easy to get lost in. Dream’s relationship with his father guides us through the exquisite imagination of dreams, and provides the familiarity we need to understand the story. In deconstructing the crazy machinations of Gaiman and Williams’ minds we are left with a story of personal growth and forgiveness. The most grounded character is Hope and Gaiman uses her very deliberately as a stimulus for Dream’s personal transition. She remains upset that Dream left her alone with Desire, and it is only by the acknowledgement of her name that she forgives him. The forgiveness of an innocent combined with the vulnerability of the dreamer. It is beautiful and simple sentiment in a hugely complex universe of glorious ideas. You will rarely read a more exquisite book than this, and even though the issues came out months at a time, they deserve reading again and again and again.
“It is as easy as changing one’s mind,
as difficult as moving a galaxy…
A thousand minds, a thousand souls.
I take everything I have and weave their dreams into something whole.
I think I have nothing else to give.”