Revisit: The Sandman: Preludes and Nocturnes


Preludes & Nocturnes

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Out of all of The Sandman, I’ve probably read Preludes and Nocturnes the least. I always remember it as being disturbing and unpleasant. Even now, I kind of view it as a hazing – if readers get through it and still want more, they’ll probably love the rest of The Sandman.

I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it this time around. It’s messy, it’s harsh. It’s still disturbing and unpleasant, but it’s also a lot of fun.

I think Neil Gaiman was trying too hard to tie the story into the DC universe and so those bits seem even more out of place than they did at the time I read it. He had just to completely establish the mythology and there was a lot that clearly felt like he was just making it up as he went along. The storyline of Dream’s quest to regain his three missing objects is actually a little boring on its own without much payoff.

But there is such a rock ‘n’ roll self-assurance about it, especially in the first issue, “The Sleep of the Just.” It didn’t matter if Gaiman knew what he was doing or not – he was really good at making readers think he did. While Sam Keith later dropped out of the series, he along with Malcolm Jones III and Mike Dringenberg gave these issues a dark, pulpy feel and did much to establish the aesthetic of the series overall.

Part of why I haven’t read Preludes and Nocturnes too often is because I always have to deal with “24 Hours.” It was the sort of thing that made me irrationally hide my copy of Preludes in the back of my bookshelf when I was 14. I’m still not much of a fan of the story, but this time around, I was kind of surprised at how much it didn’t bother me. Yes, I’ve read it before and I knew what to expect, but I think in a time where movies referred to “torture porn,” become blockbusters, maybe “24 Hours” just doesn’t quite have the impact it once did. (I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.)

When I was 14, Preludes was like nothing else I’d ever read. It freaked me out, more than just a little, but it did make me want to keep reading. Revisiting it, it’s still like nothing else I’ve read. Despite being disjointed, it still feels very original to me. I think that surprised me to the most. I didn’t expect it to become my favorite, but I’m glad I read it again.

Next week: The Doll’s House

One comment

  1. realjaco says:

    I agree with you on the fact that P&N is the lesser of all the Sandman’s comics. Nevertheless, there are three reasons for reading it anyway and making do with the bad parts:
    1) several storylines are laid out for the next issues, and even some of the characters (besides Morpheus, Lucien and of course Death) are quite complete and wonderful in their sketchiness (Lucifer is one of them)
    2) the episode in Hell has great moments, not the least among them the battle between Choronzon and Morpheus
    3) the Beating of her Wings

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