Real smooth dancer, a fantasy man
Master of illusion, magic touch in hand
Stages are empty when he steals the scene
Beggar of love, secondhand hero
King of Dreams
Title: The Sandman: Preludes and Nocturnes (1991)
Collects: The Sandman v1 issues 1-8 (jan-aug 1989)
Writer: Neil Gaiman
Art: Sam Keith, Mike Dringenberg and Malcolm Jones III
Publisher: Vertigo Comics
What You Need to Know:
I’m gonna be honest, I’m reading this for the first time, I’ll be discovering this with some of you. I only know about as much as I’ve gathered in passing in the couple crossovers I’ve read, going in pretty fresh. Seemed pertinent to start at the beginning.
What We’ll Find Out:
We open in England, 1916, a nervous looking man pulls up to a palatial manor in a carriage. After a frosty greeting from the butler, he is brought into a study, where a smarmy looking man is waiting. The man doesn’t seem surprised to see the nervous man, Dr. Hathaway. Dr. Hathaway informs the man that his son was on a destroyer that sunk and has died, he brought the man a book. The man says that now that the order has the Magdeline Grimoire no one need ever die again. A tableau of dreams is suddenly displayed in front of us, a child envisions solitude, a soldier worries about war, another child sees a man, tall and dark, with stars in his eyes…
The man, named Roderick Burgess is about to start his ritual. It is midnight, and he’ll capture Death himself tonight. With a flurry of words, he and his order begin the ritual, a number of magical artifacts are sacrificed, the words gain life. Out of thin air a figure appears! Burgess looks down, it isn’t death they’ve found, even so, not a total loss. The dreamers come back, their dreams are gone, some dreamers don’t sleep, some don’t wake, some never will.
We shift to a first person view from a circle, simple words flash across the screen, TRAPPED. OBSERVE. Burgess walks in, tells the figure they are his prisoner, unless the circle is broken, they’ll discuss the terms of release later. THREATS. PATIENCE. Years pass, Dr. Hathaway kills himself, Burgess gets rich, the dreamers never wake, more and more every day, where is their dream?
1926, Burgess is upset, the captive still won’t speak, he looks to his son, who wordlessly hold up a picture, now they know the captive’s name, Dream! One of the Endless, along with Death, Destiny, Desire, Delirium, Despair and Destruction. We flash forward in time, 1930, Burgess assumes control of the order, a coward steals dreams helmet, Burgess gets him anyway, the dreamers still sleep…
1939, a man names Wesley Dodds starts going out at night, putting criminals to sleep. 1947, Roderick Burgess yells at the sphere one last time, why won’t dream talk to him? He dies. WAITING. 1965, Alex Burgess is in the manor talking to a friend, why won’t he set Dream free? Alex asks dream, why won’t he answer, all he wants is immortality, Dream speaks. NO. Decades pass, careless old Alex breaks the circle, Dream gets free, he gets his revenge, Alex is punished, the dreamers awaken, Dream needs his tools
A pair of brothers are in a house out of time, one is nervous, the other seems mischievous. Suddenly a knock at the door, a gargoyle named Gregory has brought a castaway, Dream! Later Dream awakens, he explains he’s looking for his castle, the timid one runs off, Cain has made him something to eat. Dream asks if they have anything of his, they have some letters, he absorbs the ink, gaining a part of himself. His power is returning. A woman looks for her son in Arkham Asylum, he was a dreamer, but his dreams were evil, his name? Doctor Destiny! Without his amulet Destiny is just regular old Sam Dee, his mother has his amulet now.
Dream finds the gate, through it is his home, he opens the gate to find his home in ruins. The groundskeeper tells him the castle and its inhabitants couldn’t survive without him, Without his tools Dream can’t help them. The groundskeeper says Dream could ask the three witches where his tools are, Dream summons the means to do so, and finds a dream of Midnight, the witches appear. They tell him his tools are spread around, one is in the possession of John Constantine, one with the Justice League, and one last seen with Doctor Destiny. Dream wonders where to go first.
Dream decides on Constantine, he’s just one man, with the pouch Dream can get his helmet back. Constantine is visited by a friend, she tells him the king of dreams is coming for what’s his. He finds Constatine and asks for his pouch, Constantine says they’ll have to find it. After a couple hours of searching Constantine has an idea where to look.
Constantine’s ex girlfriend Rachel stole the pouch, Dream knows the second they arrive at the house, Dream pauses outside. This place is not safe for a human, dreams run rampant here. Constantine chooses to follow anyway, after a strange trip through the house I’ll leave for you to discover yourself, they find the pouch, Rachel is dying with it. Dream tells Constantine she will die quickly and painfully without it. Constantine doesn’t want her to suffer, Dream puts her down easy. Before Dream leaves he gives Constantine a gift.
The pouch is filled with Dream’s sand he uses to make dreams. Dream plays with his it and thinks of his next stop, he scatters some dreams and sets out to talk to Lucifer. He arrives at the gates of hell and the gate guardian lets him in, demanding payment, Dream refuses and a voice rises up, offering to help, the voice of Etrigan! Etrigan leads Drean through hell, passing a few old friends on the way. Dream is off to find his helmet.
Dream finds Lucifer, who informs him a lot has changed since he was last there, Hell is a triumvirate now, he shares his rule with Beelzebub and Azazel. Dream is bemused at the shift in power. The trio say they’d like to help, but they don’t even know which demon has it, they decide to summon every single demon in order to track down the helm. Out of all of the hordes of hell Dream singles out Choronzon, a duke of hell. Choronzon says he got the helm fair and square, if Dream wants the helm, he’ll have to fight for it.
The fight takes place in a club in hell, the game consists of rounds of one upsmanship, conjuring constructs, a spider eats a fly, a snake eats a spider and so on. Dream wins using hope. As he is handed his helm the lords of hell attempt to capture Dream, telling him dreams have no power in hell. Dream replies without dreams the captives of hell can’t dream of heaven. The hordes of hell let him through. In Arkham Asylum a guard gives Sam Dee a necklace, Sam’s mother died, and wanted him to have it, Dream’s Amulet is on the loose again! Two down, one to go.
Destiny uses his amulet and escapes Arkham Asylum, running into a classic Batman rogue along the way, I won’t tell you who. Destiny hitches a ride, he needs to find his ruby. Meanwhile Scott Free dreams of Apokolips, of Granny, Armaghetto, and traps. Dream wakes him and asks for help, he needs his ruby back. Scott says the ruby was aboard the JLA satellite, which was destroyed. Scott isn’t sure where the ruby might be, but he might know someone who does! Martian Manhunter recognizes Dream as an ancient Martian diety, Dream says he thought all the Martians were gone, J’onn is the last, he tells Dream where the ruby is, upstate Gotham.
Destiny heads for the ruby, so does Dream, Dream reaches it first, finally he holds the jewel in his hand. The ruby kicks back, knocking Dream out, Doctor Destiny arrives and picks up his ruby, finally! Destiny grabs a cup of coffee, he’s waiting for the end of the world. Destiny sits in a diner, surveying the patrons, he’s got them now. Hours go by, every time a customer tries to leave Destiny stops them. He plays with their hopes and dreams, his influence spreads. After 22 hours of psychological torture Destiny allows his playthings to die, the main attraction is about to start, Dream has arrived.
Dream speaks to Destiny, he doesn’t know what he’s doing, he’s perverted Dream’s creation. The fabric of dreams are not the playthings of mortal man, he asks if Destiny will retrun his ruby by choice, Destiny replies he’d rather try to kill Dream. Dream tells Destiny if he wants a fight he’ll have to find Dream in his own realm, in the land of Dreams.
Destiny dreams, in the dreamworld he is ruler, he is king. He looks for Dream, he travels from dream to dream, in nightmares, hopes, dreams. Dream reveals himself and implores Destiny to stop, he is destroying the dreamscape. Destiny refuses, and attacks Dream with the ruby, he pushes and pushes, Dream shrinks more and more, finally dissapearing. Destiny revels, he’s won, Dream is beaten, now he is lord of dreams! Suddenly Dream reappears, he thanks Destiny for destroying the gem, now the power is returned to him, and he can set things right. For the favor, Dream gives Destiny a gift, he’s taking him home.
Back in Arkham, Dream walks with Destiny, he says tonight the world will sleep peacefully. The Dreamers can sleep in peace once more.
The epilogue of this story is wonderful, and involves Death and Dream, I’ll leave it for you guys to discover. Wonderful stuff. Pick up Preludes and Nocturnes anywhere books are sold!
What Just Happened?
My goodness this was a dense read, a lot of fun. The story is immensely detailed without being tedious, and moves along quickly. 8 issues can be a bit much for a TPB to collect, but in this case man it pays off. The story feels amazingly balanced and the characters included are amazing, featuring big names within the Vertigo and DC realms.
From Dream’s imprisonment to his battle with Destiny it hardly feels like the story has a lull at all. Most interesting to me was the trip to hell, although Destiny playing with the diner patrons was great too (I purposely left it a bit vague so you’d have plenty to discover when you read) and the end was perfect, a satisfying finale. The epilogue was 100% excellent, hence why I left it to you guys.
I will say the book didn’t take much time to set up anything, with minimal exposition, which can be a double edged sword, as at times I wasn’t sure what was going on. Not that the book was hard to follow, I just went long periods not knowing characters names, which is a personal pet peeve.
The visuals are awesomely late 80’s and fit well with the story, I thought the fishbubble view from Dream’s prison was exceptional, as that’s a hard effect to nail. Likewise many of the characters are portrayed as rough and dirty, a stark constrast to pure and perfect Dream. A notable exception is Lucifer, who looks a lot like David Bowie (envisioning personal hero Bowie as ruler of hell is an unexpected delight) and is devoid of the imperfections that signify mortal life.
The book has many outstanding visuals, such as the walk through Constantine’s friends house. I love the way multiple dreams are represented at once, especially in Dream’s coat. The typeface used by dream (white on black) is also unique, and easy to read yet also different and otherworldly.
This was a great read, and really interesting, I would recommend it to fans of Grant Morrison, Hellblazer and general dark supernatural stories. Additionally this first arc is good background reading for Dark Knights: Metal. As an introduction to the character this book defininitely made me want more, I’ll probably read the whole series sometime, it’s going on the list.
If anyone ever wants to contact me, look me up in my group for the love of comic books , I also have several comic pages dedicated to my various true loves, Batman, Spider-man, Marvel, Oldie Goldies and Hats! (Long story on that last one haha) or on Twitter @johnbatusijack