The Sandman Universe #1
Written by Si Spurrier, Nalo Hopkinson, Dan Watters and Kat Howard
Art by Bilquis Evely, Dominike “Domo” Stanton, Max Fiumara, Seba Fiumara, Tom Fowler and Matt Lopes
Lettering by Simon Bowland
Published by Vertigo Comics
Review by Justin Partridge
‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10
Matthew the Raven takes readers on a whimsical tour of the new Sandman Universe in a visually striking and engrossing new one-shot. Written and drawn by the creative teams handpicked for the new titles by Sandman creator Neil Gaiman, The Sandman Universe #1 is a sumptuous and intriguing look back to The Dreaming just in time for the original series’ 30th anniversary. Anchored by a bittersweet but engaging main story from Si Spurrier and Bilquis Evely, this one-shot gets audiences up to speed with the main cast as well as the new faces and places that will be popping up throughout this new line of books.
“There is a place where Gods are born,” intones Spurrier’s opening narration. In the distance we see the Dreaming and the Endless Castle, spread in all its arcane and maddening glory thanks to penciler Bliquis Evely and colorist Mat Lopes. Though each artist brings something special to their pages in this one-shot, it is Evely that stands as the issue’s true MVP. Instantly capturing the wild tone and macabre visual humor of Sam Keith and Mike Dringenberg’s issues of the original series, Evely both delivers visuals that feel true to the original while also adding her own special brand of lithe lines and immaculate detailing throughout her story.
But that isn’t to say that the rest of the stories are slouches, either. From Spurrier and Evely’s Dreaming in chaos main story, we are then whisked throughout the Sandman Universe for teases of the rest of the titles that will make up this new “sequel” effort from Vertigo Comics. Though Spurrier and Evely’s story is very much the “main attraction” of the one-shot as it deals with the Dreaming and its citizens — including a new feather-eared character named Dora, who shoulders a major grudge against Daniel’s father, the original Dream — the rest of the creative teams and there characters are given ample time to shine.
First up we have a new take on the Books of Magic from writer Kat Howard and artist Tom Fowler. This time “The Merlin” is stuck in a slightly terrifying boarding school with an even more slightly terrifying new teacher, who seems to be aware of Tim Hunter’s power even if he isn’t. We are then launched across the pond to Louisiana, where writer Nalo Hopkinson and artist Dominike “Domo” Stanton introduce us to the new “House of Whispers,” which stands ready to crash itself — and the family that resides in it — into the Dreaming to stand alongside the Houses of Secrets and Mystery. Finally, Dan Watters and fraternal art team Max and Seba Fiumara give readers an apocalyptic check-in with Lucifer Morningstar as he sacrifices his power, his status as a Prince of Hell, and his bar in order to find his lost son.
Threaded together by Matthew the Raven’s poetic narration as he searches for Daniel, each story contributes to the new, larger tapestry that is The Sandman Universe. Though some hit harder than others — while it adds some much needed characters of color and queer representation to the line, the “House of Whispers” story feels like the runt of the litter due to its reluctance to give up any real plot — the whole of the one-shot really plants an interesting flag for the line ahead of its launch proper.
By making good but not slavish use of the original text while injecting a real sense of newness into the issue, the creative teams of The Sandman Universe #1 start the new line off on a fantastic note. Only time will tell if they can channel the dark cult classic energy of the original series across a whole line of titles, but for now, The Sandman Universe #1 is a gothic delight for dreamers, both old and new.