The Sandman: Overture is finally at an end. It was a long, agonizing wait—and now that it’s done I’m not sure what to feel. Part of me wants more, but the other half just wants to dive back into the original series. Gaiman has scripted an engrossing prequel that will feed The Sandman’s legend, and J.H. Williams III has depicted that story with incredible images that push the limits of what comic art can be.
At first, the series felt like little more than an Easter egg for Sandman fanboys. Considering the richness of The Sandman’s universe, that isn’t much of a criticism. Much like the original, The Sandman: Overture celebrates the power of stories to shape our world. In doing so, the series also celebrates comic books. As the Sandman’s realm encompasses all dreams in existence, its landscape is littered with the debris of childhoods spent reading comics. Dream’s librarian was first imagined in DC’s Weird Mystery Tales, his raven was once a man in the pages of Swamp Thing, and Batman can be spotted lurking in Dream’s library. With Gaiman’s previous nods to DC titles, it only makes sense that The Sandman: Overture should celebrate Gaiman’s classic title and add depth to its universe.
While Gaiman may have intended readers of The Sandman: Overture to be left itching to read the original, the story stands strong on its own; I can imagine it being a fun introduction to The Sandman for the uninitiated. It also highlights the eye candy possible when a truly gifted writer collaborates with a uniquely talented artist. J.H. Williams III has been wowing me since Batman: The Black Glove, and each issue of the new Sandman takes eye-popping comic art to new heights. Fold-outs transport you through the universe, figures fluidly blend with the action, and panels coalesce into ethereal landscapes. Together, Gaiman and Williams revel in the medium’s interplay of language and pictures. It’s this willingness to play with form that truly makes the story fresh. The Sandman: Overture did not need to push boundaries to be good, it merely had to uphold the legacy of the original. Instead, it envisions new ways for artists to bring stories to life. Most of the series’ memorable cosmic action sequences eschew frame-by-frame formatting and complicate traditional comic art’s linear narrative approach. It makes for exciting storytelling that brings The Sandman universe to life like never before.
In the introduction to the special edition of The Sandman: Overture #6, Vertigo Executive Editor Shelly Bond suggests we “raise a choice glass of liquid” to this prelude to a classic. I concur, and might I suggest my new favorite cocktail recipe:
2 oz Single Malt Scotch
½ oz ruby port
½ oz dry vermouth
1 dash Peychaud’s bitters
Combine scotch, port, vermouth, and bitters in mixing glass. Fill glass with ice and stir well. Strain into chilled coupe.
I stumbled upon The Chancellor in Food & Wine’s Cocktails 2014, but it all started with a bottle of Laphroaig Dale had collecting dust on his bookshelf. Scotch fanatics everywhere are sure to recognize the name of this single-malt and gnash their teeth at the idea of using it in a cocktail. Laphroaig, described to me by C’n’C co-conspirator Matt Chartrand as”the Scotchiest scotch Scotland could scotch up,” was my first experience with the spirit aside from Johnnie Walker, which I’d still prefer to avoid. Finding Laphroaig’s intense smokiness too abrasive, the bottle was gifted to me after I found myself asking for another taste every time I visited Dale’s. Slowly but surely, I warmed to its uniquely earthy and peaty flavors.
Food & Wine describes The Chancellor as “a nicely dry variation on the Manhattan.” Making the drink with Six Grapes Reserve Porto, the chocolate and cherry flavors of the port danced beautifully with the salty, peaty, and smokey character of the Laphroig. When I switched to Glen Moray, I found the drink quieter and much closer to the dry Manhattan description, but no less delicious. In both cases, the 50-50 mix of port and dry vermouth balance with the scotch and showcase its best flavors. I can imagine sipping this drink in Dream’s library enveloped by the musty smell of old paper and leather. The Chancellor begs to be explored with different scotches, ports, and vermouths, much likeThe Sandman: Overture invites readers to explore The Sandman and its influences.
And make no mistake: I will definitely be exploring The Sandman series a second time. While my first foray into Gaiman’s world was American Gods as a pre-teen (which showed me you can write great fantasy without setting it in a world of castles and dragons), reading The Sandman shortly after college rekindled my passion for comics and cemented my Gaiman fandom. Prose and poetry demanded most of my attention as an undergrad, and Dream’s adventures helped heal the rift between my inner English major and pre-teen comic book nerd by imagining a world where “literature” and comic books share equal footing. Denizens of The Dreaming not only include obscure characters from the pages of DC comics, but myths, legends, and literary figures. While The Sandman reminds us comics can be every bit as rich and powerful as timeless fairy stories, The Sandman: Overture reminds us there are always fresh ways to read both. I’m looking forward to returning to The Dreaming of ’89-’94 with The Chancellor as my companion.