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With the constant barrage of copyright battles that us comic book fans are forced to watch the titans of the industry have out with one another, it’s always a thrill to see a great series getting picked up again by the right parties. Sandman Overture, however, isn’t your typical thrill; it’s the continuation of, arguably, the greatest comic book series ever written, and by one of the greatest writers to ever put pen to paper. Though just what sort of role Overture will play in the scope of the sprawling 75-issue series is uncertain. Let us try to pick through this bizarre dream and see if we can’t unearth some answers. [Sandman spoilers to follow]
About Sandman Overture, and the continuation or complementation of a series that ended almost 20 years ago, Neil Gaiman stated, “people have often asked me what happened to Morpheus to make it possible for him to be captured in The Sandman #1…now they get to find out.” If it deals with events that occur before issue #1, then is it a prequel? Those who have read Sandman know that there is very little that is linear about the timeline of the story. Also, Sandman Overture not only includes events that could only happen after the final issue, but it reintroduces characters and references events that only fans of series will recognize. Therefore, could Overture #’s 1 and 2 be considered, in a way, Sandman #’s 76 and 77?
I think the title might help in answering this question. An “overture” is the introductory piece of music played before an opera. Therefore, in this situation, the original 75-issue run of Sandman is the opera, and Sandman Overture, if the title doesn’t lie, is a brief introduction to the story. Are you convinced? Neither am I—not totally at least. Is it common for an overture to spoil the ending of the opera? That’s precisely what Sandman Overture does for the original series. As I mentioned before, Sandman doesn’t have a linear timeline, and neither does Sandman Overture. Issue #2 of the new run features both Morpheus and his successor. So is this really a mere introduction? Or is it also a continuation?
Only more issues will tell, which leads into my biggest question: Is Sandman Overture going to be a short-lived revival, as brief as the designation of “overture” implies? Only time will tell, and right now, the series is marred by constant delays. In an interview, Gaiman admitted that they will be releasing one issue every couple of months, with issue #3 not due out until July. Considering Overture is every bit as good as the original series, it really shouldn’t be a problem. We’re just happy it’s back, and Gaiman is doing so much more with the series than merely introducing the main story. There’s even reason to believe that the events happening in this so-called “introduction” could have consequences in the present day.
You don’t need me to tell you how great Neil Gaiman is at writing, so I will instead explain what I believe to be the value of this glorified introduction. Two issues in, and already the Sandman universe has been meaningfully expanded in the most fascinating of ways. I hope to learn much more about the odd relationship between Morpheus and Daniel, his successor, and I’m also eager to learn more about the Endless in general. The new Dream of the Endless offers an explanation about time in their world, claiming it “goes in so many ways…sometimes it even flies,” which leads to the assumption that Morpheus’s past could overlap with Daniel’s future in consequential ways, and that Morpheus’s untimely death might not be the “end,” strictly speaking.
J.H. Williams’ artwork is absolutely breathtaking. I’d go as far as to say that I prefer his work on Sandman to any of the previous artists. While Sandman has always been an exceptionally well-drawn comic, Williams’ contribution takes a story that is way beyond reality and makes it feel—well—real. With a comic like this, that’s quite an accomplishment. Also, his panel arrangement, or lack there of, is nothing short of radical. Instances just seem to bleed into one another, while somehow retaining a logical and clear dialogue progression. The colors are sharp and striking, and I want to take every page, throw it in a frame, and hang it on my wall.
Issue #2 ended on an exceptionally shocking note: with Morpheus and his feline counterpart going to see their father. Yes, apparently the Endless, those who have been around since the beginning of time itself, have a dad. While it’s a shame that issue #3 won’t be out until July, it will hopefully give plenty of new readers a chance to catch up on the one-of-a-kind series. Right now, I’m approaching this more like a sequel and strongly advising that The Sandman #’s 1-75 be read first and foremost. Sandman Overture, despite its elusive title, reads a lot like Issues 76 and 77 of the original series. Until more issues provide greater context, that’s how I’ll approach it, and I couldn’t be more excited.