Sandman Overture #3

I recently finished the third and most recent volume of Neil Gaiman's triumphant return to The Sandman. (For the sake of the sole reader who doesn't know what The Sandman is, it's the horror/fantasy comic book series that established Gaiman's place among the greatest storytellers currently working in any medium.)

[Spoiler Alert]

Issue 1 sets quite an intriguing plot hook with Dream discussing his own murder with several other versions of himself. Issue 2 ends on a cliffhanger when Dream--accompanied by his feline counterpart--sets out to confront the culprit and perhaps avert the end of the universe.

The story promises an escalation from "intriguing" to "bombshell-dropping" in the last panel of Issue 2, when Cat-Dream mentions the possibility that he and regular Dream will meet their father.

Issue 3 lets the suspense deepen by opening with a sequence that shows various cosmic-level players--some of Gaiman's own invention and some recognizable to those familiar with DC continuity--who've gathered in anticipation of the eschaton. (Reading of an expansionist culture that seeks to protect all life by spreading an immortal, sentient cancer served as an apt reminder of Gaiman's top-tier authorial prowess.)

The story does return to Dream (which, despite his status as the eponymous hero, has never been a guarantee), who is travelling alongside...Dream...across a planet-sized "bridge" reminiscent of the Old West. After an obligatory meeting with the triple goddess, Dream dispenses some of his patented cruel and unusual punishment to a band of cannibals and gains his second (first?) companion in the form of an orphaned girl called Hope.

Gaiman promised that Sandman Overture would tie up some of the myriad loose ends that were left dangling when the original series ended its run in 1996. So far, the new miniseries has made good on that promise in some pretty major ways--but none so major as the twofold revelation we get in Issue 3 when Hope asks the Sandman to tell her a bedtime story--his best one. The proffered tale worthily justifies Dream's title as Prince of Stories.

On the whole, Sandman Overture #3 continues the superb storytelling of the previous two issues and their legendary predecessor. Only one flaw mars this otherwise flawless gem--the omission of a payoff to the implied promise that Dream would visit his father. Fortunately, it seems likely that this oversight will be resolved in the next issue. Delaying fulfillment of the promise any longer would risk turning suspense into frustration, and Gaiman's much too clever for that.

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