Robot 6

Reviews | ‘Sandman: Overture’ #1 & ‘Damian: Son of Batman’ #1

sandman coverI think it’s hard to overestimate the value of The Sandman, the 75-issue Neil Gaiman-written series that began its life as a revival of the late-’70s Joe Simon/Jack Kirby character, and ended up as 1,600-plus page epic that was one of the all-time best gateway comics — not to mention a powerful factor in the mainstreaming of adult comics content and a then still-emerging graphic novel market.

So Gaiman returning to Dream of the Endless (and the first Dream, rather than Daniel), for the first time since 2003’s The Sandman: Endless Nights? That should be a pretty big deal, right?

For The Sandman: Overture, which debuted this week, Gaiman is paired with Promethea artist J.H. Williams III (better known these days for his run on Batwoman), colorist Dave Stewart and letterer Todd Klein, who lettered all the previous Sandman comics.

As exciting as the project is, it also feels rather dangerous for writer, reader, character and publisher. You know what they say about going home again, after all, or catching lightning in  a bottle.

It was therefore with more than the usual amount of trepidation that I read the first issue of the new miniseries, a prequel series set before 1989’s The Sandman #1. Here are some thoughts:

• $4.99 is  pretty steep for a comic book, particularly one that features characters a lot of readers first experienced through trade paperback collections. Here your $5 gets you 28 pages of comics, with a four-page fold-out at the climax, and a heavy cover stock. I imagine a lot of the potential readership might already be inclined to trade-wait (especially when you factor in they’ve already waited a decade since the last Sandman comic, which of course came in the form of an original graphic novel).

• It was very strange seeing a Sandman comic that didn’t have a Dave McKean cover. I understand there was a McKean variant, but I have the Williams cover.

• DC sure went bananas with the ads in this thing. There are eight pages of ads (not counting those on the back and inside covers), and every single one of them is for Vertigo. For whatever reason, it was decided the best place to stick ‘em was throughout the story, sometimes in the middle of a scene. The ads were another element that seemed foreign in a Sandman comic (if you read it in trades), and given that they were merely ads for other books in the publisher’s stable, it’s not as if they couldn’t have been placed in the back.

Maybe I noticed this more because the other two comics I read right before Overture — the first issue of Archie Comics’ The Fox and the latest issue of Image Comics’ Saga — were virtually ad-free, the only ads appearing being relegated to the back, rather than interrupting the story like TV commercials.

• This seems like the most Neil Gaiman comic Neil Gaiman has written since … well, since the last time he wrote The Sandman. It’s rather surprising how comfortable he is with these characters, given the amount of time that’s passed since he wrote them regularly, but this struck me as a much better piece of writing in all respects than the last few Gaiman comics I’ve read (1602, The Eternals, “Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?”, Wednesday ComicsMetamorpho).

• Williams is a perfect collaborator for Gaiman on The Sandman. One of the many admirable aspects of the original Sandman run is how many different and various artists Gaiman worked with, and the fact that almost all of them were good. There were artists who I liked better than others, but it almost always came down to a preference for a style over another—there were no scrubs drawing Sandman.

Williams is another worthy collaborator, and his baroque page layouts that can seem a little much on a comic like Batwoman, which, at the end of the day, is nothing more than a superhero beat-‘em-up, is perfectly suited for a book like this. Williams rises to the occasion, doing each and every scene in a completely different style.

damian coverCoincidentally, this week another big-ticket comic-book maker returns to a character he co-created as a  new riff on a preexisting character. That would of course be Andy Kubert, Gaiman’s collaborator on 2003’s 1602 and 2009’s “Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?”, whose Damian: Son of Batman #1  appeared on shelves Wednesday.

Kubert was the artist who first drew Damian, the son of Batman Bruce Wayne and Talia al Ghul, in a 2006 issue of Grant Morrison’s Batman run. While Kubert didn’t seem to be able to keep up with Morrison on the book, he did draw Batman #666, which was set in a possible near-future in which Damian had succeeded his father as Batman (a possible future that would be revisited a few years later in the pages of Batman Inc.).

Damian Wayne would soon become Batman’s fourth or fifth Robin (fifth Pre-New 52, fourth Post-New 52), and after a few years, he would die terribly in the line of duty.

For Damian, Kubert is both writing and drawing, with Brad Anderson providing the colors.

This return isn’t nearly as big a deal as Gaiman coming back to Sandman, of course, given how relatively little time has elapsed since Kubert and his collaborators did a Damian story, and the character’s relatively tiny footprint in the world of comics when compared to that of The Sandman. Nevertheless, it’s safe to say there are a whole lot of people who don’t have any interest at all in a new Sandman comic who will be picking up the latest from Kubert.

I read this one, too. Here are some thoughts:

• This a $3.99 package, and for your extra dollar you get four more story pages (24, rather than DC’s now-standard 20), and a thicker, slicker cover stock. The interior pages seem to be of a higher-quality paper stock as well. More striking than the price tag on the cover, however, is the “The New 52!” tag.

Set “some years from now,” in a possible-but-will-never-happen future where Batman dies, this is basically the sort of book DC would have slapped an “Elseworlds” logo on a decade ago, but now they’re explicitly branding it as part of their current continuity.

• As Kubert demonstrated in his Batman #23.1 (The Joker issue of Villains Month), he’s a solid writer. I found a lot of questionable choices in this, and I was confused by the artwork and by things left unsaid in either the art or the script, but, mechanically, he writes perfectly fine.

• He opens with Batman’s death, which seems something of a mistake. As we get to see how Batman dies, it can’t help but seem like a little, mean, meaningless death, particularly given all the stuff Batman has survived in his career. The death of Batman seems like such a big story that it would overshadow anything that followed. Here he dies by Page 6, and its a pretty unspectacular death.

• Damian narrates the story himself, via entries in a “Graybook,” which is perhaps a reference to Batman’s Black Book from the Morrison run, a journal of sorts where Batman recorded his strangest cases, generally ones involving the supernatural. Rather than standard narration boxes, these show up in what look like the sort of little windows you’d find on your computer monitor, with a computer-y font and a gray frame with buttons allowing you to close, minimize or maximize the window. It’s garish and ugly, and clashes rather dramatically with the artwork, which is some of the finest of Kubert’s I’ve seen in a while.

• Kubert draws the scariest Joker fish.

• It’s unclear where the rest of the Batman family is, and that’s more than a little frustrating, given that immediately after the death of Batman, Damian goes on a killing spree of Bat-villains. At Batman’s funeral, there are five others present, one of whom is Barbara Gordon and another of whom is Alfred, but the others are unidentifiable.

Where are Dick Grayson, Jason Todd and Tim Drake? Are they dead, too?

• There’s a weird two-page sequence in which Damian kills anyone claiming credit for Batman’s death. These include Mr. Freeze, Killer Crock and Jackanapes. The first two seem to have their own blogs …? That’s odd.

And it was particularly strange to see Jackanapes killed off so unceremoniously, given that Kubert devoted Batman #23.1 to telling his origin (and that Jackanapes, dressed as a clown, plays small roles in Batman #666 and Batman Inc., after the point at which Damian becomes Batman; here he dresses like the Gorilla Boss of Gotham City, and has his head nearly lopped off while Damian’s still wearing his Robin costume.

• There’s a scene in which Damian visits a priest in a confessional booth that really confused me. The priest looks like Commissioner Gordon, but it’s never explicitly stated he is Gordon, so I couldn’t figure out if Kubert just drew a priest who looked like an older version of Gordon, or if Gordon had become a priest at some point in the future, or … what.

• The cliffhanger on the splash-page ending is an unexpected surprise; I really liked that the character who appears is in the company of an angry-looking black cat with a white tuxedo patch and “socks.” He’s not generally depicted as a cat person.

So what did you guys think about the first issues of Sandman: Overture and Damian: Son of Batman?

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Comments

14 Comments

I enjoyed Sandman and yes, they did go ad crazy. Not that I mind ads in general but it seemed more like a hostage situation. They already have us and know we will see any ads they throw in there. This isn’t going to be a “weeellllll..maybe I’ll get it” kind of comic. The ones who have decided they are going to buy are going to and the ones that aren’t…won’t.

Regular $2.99 issues are 20 pages of story and 12 pages of ads, so I didn’t think The Sandman: Overture had too many ads. I followed the original run of The Sandman in single issues as they were coming out (naturally I picked up the McKean cover) so I disagree with “The ads were another element that seemed foreign in a Sandman comic.”

I agree that it would have been better if all the ads were gathered together on the back of the issue (like they did with many of JHW3’s issues of Batwoman) but they may not have been able to do it due to the logistics of placing the double fold-out pages. I also noticed that pages 2 through 5 seemed to have been drawn as another four-page fold-out, and I would love to see it printed that way some day.

I’m not a New 52 reader, but I stuck with Morrison’s Batman run through Inc. #13, so I’m grateful to have a new, “fresh” Batman story to read that seems free of the New 52’s trappings. Kubert’s Bat-suit looked pretty normal, first of all. Also, you know that’s Babs at the funeral scene because she’s in a wheelchair, but that isn’t a thing in the New 52, right? At least . . . not YET?

Also, Damien quips at one of the corpses looking like Tim — so either the Bat-family was in the explosion (which would’ve been a bigger deal), or they’re DEFINITELY alive somewhere, as thinking a corpse was Tim with Tim already dead would’ve been a pretty dark joke, even for Damien.

I don’t have the issue with me at the moment, but considering the last page, here’s a weird inquiry: is it confirmed through the dialogue or narration that the Batman in the first 6 pages is Bruce? The scenes I remember most include Damien calling Batman “the Batman.” That stuck out to me, and I didn’t think to look for clues for a bigger picture, until now . . .

There were more ads than story in the $5 sandman book, what a disgrace

I found Sandman to be exquisite. I found Damian, Son of Batman to be…not very good.

Damian had an All Star Batman feel to it. Big, flashy, pretty art with an utterly maniacal and somewhat perverse story.

Sandman Overture #1 was hands down one of the best comics I have ever read. Its unreal how perfectly suited JH Williams’ art is for the Sandman.

8 pages of adds including the back of the front cover and the front of the back cover does not make more ads than story pages in Sandman Overture. The McKean cover was the B cover not a variant. Cover price is the same. I had to have both of them. One for memory sake and JH Williams III for well his great art! It was a fantastic book worthy of its price. Damian- the art was great. The paper stock, the glossy cover, and page count justified the price tag. The story did not leave me begging for the next episode.

My LCS still had 20+ copies of Sandman: Overture sitting in their New Release shelf yesterday. I don’t think the book was probably advertised outside of Vertigo.

I found SM:O to be beautifully drawn but incredibly boring and not new reader friendly.

As for Damian. Never read any of the comics featuring him. But the writing was stiff and odd. Alot of dialog were written as if the characters were completely disconnected from everything. I wanted something better,

Masked Man Issue 1

November 3, 2013 at 5:37 pm

Sandman was an impeccable piece of art…

Damian, on the other hand… not so much. My guess about the batfamily is that (SPOILER ALERT) Dick Grayson is the Batman that we see dying in the opening scene (END SPOILERS). But I like the comparison with an Elseworlds story, this makes no sense considering what’s happening with the New52 (hey, look at that familiar wheelchair) or even what happened before. And after all the pomp and fanfare of the first issue, you will be left wondering why bother reading this at all.

Couple of things:

SOME of us read SANDMAN when it was in single issue form. AHEM.

HOWEVER< I do think this would have benefited from being an OGN instead of a series of floppies.

And…

…can these really e considered "reviews"? You pass no opinion on the comics other than who worked on them and their format. What did you think about them? Did you enjoy them? Why/why not?

Anyway….SANDMAN: OVERTURE was a welcome return to the characters I have loved from the moment I first laid eyes on the (ironically enough) ad page in a December 1988 (most likely) BATMAN COMIC.

"I will show you terror in a handful of dust".

Indeed. SO glad to have them back, if only briefly.

Also: RE: BG: “More ads than story”

That’s utterly incorrect.

I didn’t think anyone could say anything negative about JH3’s Batwoman art, but alas.

Damian: Son of Batman was terrible. If it was dialogue/caption free it would’ve been amazing. Too bad.

Son of Batman is the worst idea and of course , Batman’s cartoon I’ve ever seen … leave him alone as what he is , there’s still more potential in Batman stories than more than you need to add a new Robin as his son , it just destroy of the main character of Batman

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