The Sandman Universe #1 – Neil Gaiman, Simon Spurrier, Nalo Hopkinson, Kat Howard, Dan Watters, Writers; Bliquis Evely, Dominike “Domo” Stanton, Tom Fowler, Artists; Max Fiumara, Penciller; Sebastian Fiumara, Inker; Mat Lopes, Colorist
Ray – 9.5/10
Ray: DC has made a lot of big moves recently in terms of reviving some of their most iconic stand-alone properties for new adventures. In terms of connection to the original, The Sandman Universe #1 has much more in common with sequels to The Dark Knight Returns than the controversial Doomsday Clock. Although original creator Neil Gaiman isn’t writing, he’s closely involved in developing this story and hand-picked the four writers taking on the stories in the universe. From the start, it’s clear that this new shared universe is very much in Gaiman’s style, as each of the four segments features an intriguing mystery that fits together into a bigger whole. It’s sort of like putting a puzzle together – even though, by the end of this double-sized launch issue, we’re still working on the sides.
The story begins in the world of the Dreaming, as the world is falling into chaos. A massive rift has appeared in the sky, unpredictable events are taking place, and Daniel seems to be missing following his role in Dark Nights: Metal. Famous characters like librarian Lucien and Cain and Abel debate their next move, which falls to Matthew the Raven to go on a quest to find their missing king. That takes him on a journey through the subconscious, where he encounters the dinner party-themed dream of an old woman in hospice, and comes into conflict with a mysterious young woman named Dora who seems to have her own control over the dream world. Fascinating opening chapter, as we follow Matthew into the worlds of the other books.
The Books of Magic, when it debuted, was a cult favorite. Of course, the world of boy wizards is very different since then, and this segment has a tricky task to reintroduce us to Tim Hunter without reminding us too much of a certain someone. I think this segment does a great job, picking up with a young Tim Hunter who is still figuring out his magical powers. Things take a sinister turn when he arrives at school one day and finds his regular teacher has been replaced by a sinister woman named Dr. Rose, who tests his skills with a mysterious volume. Oh, and she dispatched his old teacher quite violently. I’m intrigued, although this feels like a shorter segment than the others.
The House of Whispers segment is the oddest of the four, but might be the most promising. Set in New Orleans, it doesn’t give away its secrets easily and is heavily rooted in the mythology of the bayou. The story is focused on a young couple – two women coming out of the closet for the first time to their kids and introducing them to each other. There are some nasty growing pains among the kids, one of them throws a gift of an alligator charm into the river – and that charm turns into something very different. I don’t know what to make of this story yet, but characters like Uncle Monday have great visuals and add some nice diversity to the events.
Then there’s the final segment, Lucifer, as Matthew descends on the Lord of Hell’s bar and finds it in disarray. Those who are familiar with the TV series will find a very different character – this Lucifer isn’t the charming freelance detective, but a cruel and twisted man playing out an ancient feud. The darkest story so far, it seems to set up that Lucifer will be playing a major role as an antagonist in the universe, as he pursues his own agenda. Before long, Matthew is flying back to Lucien, with a lot more questions but few answers – and Lucien reveals the extent of the threat they’re facing. This is a fascinating, excellent start that shows off the talent involved in this universe. I cannot wait to see the new books debut next month.
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GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.