14 March 2007

Neil Gaiman, The Sandman: Fables and Reflections (The Collected Sandman, vol. 6). New York: D.C. Comics, 1993.

The Sandman series is a re-imagining of our mythical heritage, akin to Robert Graves' I, Claudius or John Garner's Grendel in its co-opting of familiar characters to re-develop a traditional storyline from a new perspective.

This is serious fiction. Gaiman creates well-plotted stories, which develop over several issues, and fills them with well-developed, achingly-human characters. Some of these are monsters, some human, and some gods, but each is necessary, and believable, in his role.

In Fables and Reflections, the sixth volume of collected Sandman stories, we see Dream interact with Caesar Augustus, Marco Polo, and the great caliph of Baghdad Haroun Al Raschid, as well as what happens when a dream-world collapses. These stories, however, take a back seat to Gaiman's stunning rendition of the tale of Orpheus, the son of Dream and Calliope who descends into hell seeking his lost love Eurydice.

In spite of many changes in Sandman's art production team over the issues, Gaiman gives him a consistent voice across the collected volumes. Using inspiration from all eras of history and a deep knowledge of mythology, Gaiman has, in the Sandman, created a character even the most academically-inclined can enjoy.

Even better, it's a comic book.

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