THE SANDMAN UNIVERSE #1 by Neil Gaiman, Dan Watters, Kat Howard, Nalo Hopkinson, and Simon Spurrier
While some of the sections wowed me more than others, THE SANDMAN UNIVERSE #1 is a nearly perfect reading experience that calls back to the original series in beautiful ways. This is an obvious creation of passion and wonder, and I cannot wait to see where the spin-offs take this series!
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The Dream Returns

Fantasy novelist Neil Gaiman became one of the biggest names in comics in 1989. With the release of his SANDMAN comic book series, Gaiman revolutionized the medium. He showed that with enough patience and passion, one could create a literary masterpiece in an often criticized medium. Almost thirty years later, THE SANDMAN UNIVERSE #1 brings us back into Gaiman’s world. Yet does it carry with it the same wow factor as before?

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Where to Begin?

THE SANDMAN UNIVERSE #1 page 1. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

The Dreaming is crumbling away. A crack splits the sky above the realm’s capital, and it only grows bigger as time goes by. Worse yet, the denizens of the Dreaming cannot find their master. The latest incarnation of Dream, David, left on an important mission. However, nothing could be more important than the loss of his realm, right? When attempts at communication fail, Matthew the Raven leaves the land of dreams in search of his master. Along the way, he encounters a number of beings, each with wonderful and terrifying possibilities. All the while, Matthew must question his master’s intentions. Does David even want to return to the Dreaming?

Worlds of Chaos and Adventure

THE SANDMAN UNIVERSE #1 page 2. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

THE SANDMAN UNIVERSE #1 delivers on almost every level. The story itself acts as an introduction to four spin-off series, each of which makes an appearance here. Gaiman has shifted the writing duties to four up-and-coming comic writers (Dan Watters, Kat Howard, Nalo Hopkinson, and Simon Spurrier). Still, this issue feels like it comes straight from Gaiman’s mind. The sense of wonder is ever-present in this constantly shifting story. In the original series, we never really had the chance to explore the Dreaming. We saw bits and pieces of the realm, as well as the ways it affected the real world. Now, though, we have the opportunity to just sit back and watch this beautiful and sometimes horrifying world unfold before us.

In many ways, the fractured nature of the story aids this endeavor. THE SANDMAN UNIVERSE #1 essentially combines five separate short-stories together with a common through-line. This narrative structure adds a lot to the world-building and the interest level. This writing team never lets the reader get complacent. They constantly introduce new themes and characters, or reacquaint readers with longtime favorites. Meanwhile, they don’t rush their sections. They allow the story to unfold naturally, delving into deeper and deeper aspects of their upcoming worlds. Whether it be the dream girl Dora or Erzulie and her House of Whispers, I always wanted to know more. These writers continually drew me into these mysteries.

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At the Heart of the Dreaming

THE SANDMAN UNIVERSE #1 page 3. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

The original SANDMAN series focused intensely on character. With a story based in the realm of human dreams, this only made sense. Thankfully, THE SANDMAN UNIVERSE #1 gives us a nearly perfect character experience. This is a happy surprise, considering the huge cast. Lucien, Cain & Abel, Matthew, Lucifer, Timothy Hunter, and Dora are only a few of the named entities contained within. Still, I feel like I really had the opportunity to get to know most of them. Even minor characters, like the old cancer patient in whose dreams Dora hides, had a deep and intricate backstory. From the very beginning, I felt the passion and wonder these writers must have while working with this profound material.

I didn’t feel like every section quite hit the mark. The part following Timothy Hunter is far more plot-heavy than the rest. I never feel a true connection forming with these characters. In fact, despite being a popular Gaiman character, I feel like most fans who are new to these books would feel lost in Timothy’s story. This doesn’t necessarily detract from the overall experience. While a bit heavier on plot, I did feel drawn into THE BOOKS OF MAGIC section. It just felt odd that even Matthew, our de facto narrator for most of the book, just writes the chilling events of the story off without any thought.

Dreams of Color and Light

The most astounding part in THE SANDMAN UNIVERSE #1, at least for me, was the collaborative artistic effort. Simon and Max Fiumura, Tom Fowler, Bilquis Evely, and Domonike Stanton all played a role in bringing this book to life. Their work is absolutely stunning. The varied art styles meld and dance together in fantastic ways, like a dream come to life. I will say that I wasn’t as taken with Simon and Max Fiumara’s work on the Lucifer section of the story. That isn’t a shot against their abilities. Their understanding of color and tone created an incredibly complex visual story. Their distorted style, though, simply didn’t appeal to my personal taste. I’m sure there are plenty of others, though, that will fall in love with it.

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SANDMAN is back in an absolutely beautiful reintroduction. THE SANDMAN UNIVERSE #1 is equal parts homage and stand-alone brilliance. It relies heavily on the lore of Gaiman’s world, crafting a story that feels completely on par with Gaiman’s former work. Meanwhile, this collaboration of nine creative souls manages to push forward in new directions, wholly unique and utterly brilliant. My excitement for the upcoming four series (LUCIFER, THE BOOKS OF MAGIC, THE DREAMING, and THE HOUSE OF WHISPERS) was already sky high. Now, the hype train has exited our atmosphere. With these creatives behind the story, I cannot wait to see where they go next.


  1. […] Kat Howard is giving it new life once again, this time as part of the greater Sandman Universe. This imprint also includes HOUSE OF WHISPERS, THE DREAMING, and LUCIFER. You can get an introduction to all these titles in THE SANDMAN UNIVERSE #1. […]


  2. Wallace Wells

    August 9, 2018 at 9:41 pm

    Mister/Miss Zender,

    This incarnation of Dream’s name is Daniel, not David. ^_^;


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