Author: Neil Gaiman
Artists: Kelley Jones, Charles Vess, Colleen Doran, and Malcolm Jones III
Published: 1990 (DC)
YOU GUYS. I finally started the Sandman journey, on the reassurance of a friend that starting with 3 wasn’t going to screw up anything, and on the ever-weakening resolve to wait until I can find full sets of series before I read them (and then I saw an Absolute edition JUST SITTING THERE HANGING OUT ON A LIBRARY SHELF LIKE IT WAS NO BIG DEAL, OH HEY – but by then I had read this and I want them for my own), and guess what it was awesome I love it when can I get the rest?
If that was a big surprise verdict, you must be really new here.
I was sucked in from the structure on, which is a series of short stories grouped in a different theme for each volume. The first story here was about the relationship between writer and muse, and holy crap is that some dark juju going on to make things of beauty and fame. A writer failing on his sophomore book goes to a creepy old dude famous writer and buys his muse for, like, a hairball that has some sort of mystical property. The muse is a literal lady, and – the most disturbing image/words combo is when the young writer gets her home and – uh, uses her. “Nervously.” Thankfully in just one regular-sized, understated panel. *shudders*
The middle two stories are about cats that dream of when they used to rule the world and Shakespeare’s traveling acting group performing “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” for fae folk who come over from the other side (of what, I’m not 100% sure) to watch. Will repaid some debt to them by writing this, and in the process of performance one of the true imps kills and replaces the actor playing Puck without anybody noticing.
The cat one was a cute riff on subconsciousness but not much else, and I feel like the Shakespeare one had a deeper meaning than I got from it, hiding just outside my sensory range and while I enjoyed them both I felt like the first and last stories had much heftier impacts on me.
The last one is about a super heroine with an indestructive but badly scarred body from testing at her secret agency. She has to, like, glue on silicone facial masks every time she goes out in public, which is understandably not a lot, and she’s mortified and lonely enough to want to kill herself except she can’t die. It’s pretty depressing and she gets a little overdramatic about it, but then Death comes in to check on her during another errand and adds a much-needed reality check tempered with the only sort of mercy she knows how to give. It’s great, and Death looks like Siouxsie from Siouxsie and the Banshees, and I can’t wait to read more with her in it and also meet more of Gaiman’s personifications and go along on more of their creepy adventures.
Bookshelf for sure, and I’m going to look for the other volumes as individuals. Or maybe just give in and buy an Absolute, because this one didn’t actually cost me anything.