Page 45 Review by Stephen
From the introduction:
"Yesterday, in a hotel lobby in Turin I was asked if I could tell the story of the Sandman in twenty-five words or less. I pondered for a moment:
""The Lord of Dreams learns that one must change or die, and makes his decision," I said.
"It's true, as far as it goes, but it leaves out quite a lot. Introductions always do."
It's always a worry, isn't it? Someone returning to a completed work which stands tall in your estimation. It can seem like an unnecessary add-on, especially when the series boasts a substantial epilogue of its own. And if it fails to meet your expectations, the addition can sully the whole. It's a risk, a gamble. DREAMHUNTERS was a lovely fable, but its relevance to the larger story was tangential at best. This is different. It's like being reunited with an old friend bearing good news. Any one of these stories could have been included in FABLES & REFLECTIONS and there are revelations inside, one of them substantial.
With traditional skill, Dave McKean draws you in through a sequence of warm bookends, beautifully designed, before Gaiman welcomes you back for seven tales which are going to leave you with hair standing up on your neck, or a tear welling in your eye. Neil can do that. He's a master of allusion, the ominous, and the punchline. And he manages to approach each of these pieces from a different, oblique angle, so you never know quite what's in store.
One artist, for example, took me completely by surprise: Frank Quitely. However much I enjoy Frank's work - and I do, very much - I wasn't sure he was suitable for SANDMAN, even after seeing the ENDLESS poster. But this is something altogether different, something you'll need to see to believe. His watercolours here are breathtaking. Majestic. Sienkiewicz's piece is appropriately delirious, Manara and Desire are the perfect combination, you can't beat Russell for the poignancy of Death, Fabry anchors you in the present (in an unusually down-to-earth tale of potential Armageddon), whilst Prado's watercolours whisk you back into an earlier era in the universe, a congregation of constellations and other young gods, where Morpheus, not for the last time, finds himself disappointed in love. My only personal disappointment was the admirably adventurous exercise with Barron Storey, whose influence can still be seen through Sienkiewicz and McKean (and therefore Ashley Wood et al), called "Fifteen Portraits of Despair", all written with feeling to which the black Barron adds pretty much nothing that I can discern, however accomplished the art in itself. Oh - maybe that was Despair I felt when I read it. That'd be clever.