How good was Sandman, really? I asked myself. After all I was in my late teens and it was a long time ago. Also probably the first comic for adults I ever read. Should I take a risk on those gigantic anthologies, The Absolute Sandman or a lesser commitment on the comparatively tiddly first paperback collection, Preludes and Nocturnes? How much of it did I actually read back then? There was Death and a Cereal Convention and a performance of A Midsummer Night's Dream but there was definitely much more I had not read.
OK - let's play with house money and get The Absolute Sandman, Vol. 1 for my birthday.
Good choice! Because this book is utterly gorgeous simply as a physical object and the art is scaled up from the 8 issue paperback collections. (Also re-coloured, whatever that means for quality - ask a person who knows about comics.) There's also a pile of ancillary material collected at the back, some of which isn't available elsewhere. It's also, for the most part, even better than I remembered!
Both Gaiman and who-ever wrote the introduction feel that these comics really found their proper voice with the first appearance of the character Death in issue 8. I agree. This marks the end of the first story arc, involving many aspects of and characters from the wider DC universe and the start of a more isolated but deeper exploration of Gaiman's vision of The Endless and how they relate to life across the universe and time as well as humanity specifically. The Endless are seven "anthropomorphic personifications" that don't seem to always be anthropomorphic at all, since they exist for all types of life - as evidenced by fairies, aliens and cats. They are: Dream, Death, Delerium, Desire, Destiny, Despair...and the other one that I never remember but presumably has a name beginning with "D" in English. They're an interesting bunch.
These stories already show Gaiman's in-depth knowledge of world mythology and penchant for literary references, only the most obvious of which did I get back in the day. I noticed many more this time round. Makes me wonder if there are more I still missed...
Anyway, to sum up...book gorgeous. Art gorgeous. Stories great. And addictive. Bring me Vol. 2.