“Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman” #29-31

By | August 31st, 2022
Posted in Reviews | % Comments

We’re approaching the end of our time this summer with Morpheus, but before the final arc of this omnibus, we take some time for some self-contained short stories.

Cover by Dave McKean

Written by Neil Gaiman
Penciled by Stan Woch
Inked by Dick Giordano
Colored by Daniel Vozzo
Lettered by Todd Klein

Venture back to the French Revolution as Lady Johanna Constantine finds herself embroiled in a plot to smuggle a very odd and valuable item of specific interest to Morpheus–a human head!.

Cover by Dave McKean

Written by Neil Gaiman
Penciled by Bryan Talbot
Inked by Stan Woch
Colored by Daniel Vozzo
Lettered by Todd Klein

Bryan Talbot provides guest art on this stand-alone story starring a Roman Emperor who heavily disguises himself in order to spend a day, unnoticed, among his people. Through discussion with a servant, the Emperor reveals a stirring connection he shared with Morpheus, the Dream King.

Cover by Dave McKean

Written by Neil Gaiman
Illustrated by George McManus
Colored by Daniel Vozzo
Lettered by Todd Klein

Morpheus, the Dream King, joins his sisters in this stand-alone tale revolving around the quirky life of America’s first–and only–emperor.

While I’ve enjoyed the longer story arcs that we’ve had in this Summer Comics Binge, I find myself liking the various one-shots a bit more.  Perhaps it’s the placement of them, after longer story arcs, allowing for a breath of fresh air in between building the larger Sandman world.  Perhaps it’s because they still allow us time for characterization without getting too complicated into story. We can enjoy what’s on the pages for its own merits while broadening our own knowledge, and not having to make too many overarching connections.

Because let’s be honest, sometimes reading a story like this you feel a bit like Conspiracy Charlie from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia: wondering what is real and what isn’t, what is important and what isn’t, and how it all works together.

So this week’s break is certainly welcomed with open arms, as we take a look at three different stories on their own merits.

Issue #29, “Thermidor,” brings back Constantine in female form as Johanna for a mission close to Morpheus: the safe delivery of the head of Orpheus, Morpheus’s son, to the priests in Greece.  The journey requires a trip through France in the late 18th century, the time of revolution, thus Johanna’s journey is not a safe one.

While it’s lovely to see Constantine again, I am not sure if this one shot was the right vehicle to reintroduce the character.   It’s a very text heavy issue, and with heavily detailed artwork, each crowds out the other.  Script and art were both trying too hard, and they needed to work more in balance with each other. The script itself is not a bad story, just one perhaps not suited for a one-shot.  Between the re-introduction of Constantine and the reveal that Morpheus has a son, there’s character reveal here that feels momentous, and yet does not get the care that it deserves. Of course, we must remind ourselves that nothing is introduced for its own sake – – and that we’re just hitting the halfway point of this series.  What we see here could certainly come back, but it all just doesn’t feel packaged right. Even the lettering, which I’ve praised in previous issues, doesn’t work.  Its style – a slightly imperfect cursive for Constantine’s narration, with uneven lines to give that sense of writing with a fountain pen.  But it is also hard to read – – and its use comes at times in the story where the narration is necessary to understanding the plot.

There’s certainly good ingredients within this story, but this is a case of the whole being less than the sum of its parts.

Moving on to issue #30, we travel back to Ancient Rome for “August,” the tale of Caesar Augustus.   It’s Caesar’s day to forsake his nobility and live as a beggar amongst the people of Rome. With the dwarf Lycius by his side, Caesar talks about his family history with that other Caesar we all know, and the Roman belief of ruler as God.  But this Caesar has different powers than his powerful uncle – – that of prophecy and predestination.  And one of those prophecies is what leads him to become a beggar for one day a year, to appease those gods he fears, including one very close to him.

Continued below

This comic is very clean in its look, using white to its advantage to show off detail.  It draws the eye in to that detail, including in rather gruesome moments, such as the sores on Caesar’s face in his beggar form, or when he kills a rat with his bare hand.  Like “Thermidor” this is also a text heavy issue, but the cleaner look of the art – – and perhaps the use of brand new characters – – make this issue more balanced.  I didn’t get the sense that we would see these characters again in the series (and indeed, a quick look at the DC wiki does prove that to be the case), which allows for the reader to appreciate the story for its own sake without worrying too much about how it fits into the larger canon.  I do note that there is a twist at the end that may prove triggering for readers, so do proceed with caution.

Our final story, “Three Septembers and a January” purports to tell the tale of the first and only emperor of the US, the dream of a man named Joshua who finds himself Emperor Norton I of the United States of America in 1859. (Fan of funk band Emperor Norton’s Stationary Marching Band? I have no doubt this is where they found their inspiration for their name!)  This is a story where Morpheus has the upper hand and control over the action (along with siblings Despair, Death, and Delirium), which is refreshing after the previous arc where he was less so in control. It’s a reminder for us of the power and control Morpheus has over dreams, And while it’s not clear what his motivations were in giving Joshua this particular dream, in the end, that doesn’t really matter. The artwork is steampunk with plenty of color, another use of color in its more conventional sense as a break from reality.  Wisely, the script balances with this art well.  The lighter tone of “Three Septembers and a January” provides that palate cleanser the reader’s mind needs after several heavy storylines.

As for my favorite? “Three Septembers and a January” was the most fun thanks to its steampunk vibes.  But the best executed, with the twist you may not have seen coming, is certainly “August.” As for “Thermidor,” all I can say is, Constantine’s reintroduction deserved better.

Next week we start the final arc of this omnibus, ‘A Game of You,’ with issues #32-34.

If you want to read along with me this summer, single issues and trades are available through comiXology. As of this writing, the first eight issues of the comic are also available on DC Universe Infinite.  You can also check your local library for trade and collected editions of the series.

//TAGS | 2022 Summer Comics Binge

Kate Kosturski

Kate Kosturski is your Multiversity social media manager, a librarian by day and a comics geek...well, by day too (and by night). Kate's writing has also been featured at PanelxPanel, Women Write About Comics, and Geeks OUT. She spends her free time spending too much money on Funko POP figures and LEGO, playing with yarn, and rooting for the hapless New York Mets. Follow her on Twitter at @librarian_kate.


  • Legion week 8 banner Reviews
    “Legion of Super-Heroes” – The Levitz Era Part 8

    By | Nov 4, 2022 | Reviews

    The Legion read-along continues with a rare four-part story. Do Levitz and Giffen deliver another epic on the scale of “The Great Darkness Saga?” Read on to find out!The Legion of Super-Heroes Annual #2, #307-310Written by Paul Levitz and Keith GiffenIllustrated by Keith Giffen, Larry Mahlstedt, George Tuska, Pat Broderick, and Mike DecarloColored by Carl […]

    MORE »
    Legion week 7 banner Reviews
    “Legion of Super-Heroes” – The Levitz Era Part 7

    By | Oct 28, 2022 | Reviews

    The Levitz Legion read-along continues with a wedding, a long running mystery is solved and a new Legion leader is elected.The Legion of Super-Heroes Annual #2, #304-306Written by Paul Levitz and Keith GiffenIllustrated by Keith Giffen, Larry Mahlstedt, Kurt Schaffenberger, Curt Swan, and Dave GibbonsColored by Carl GaffordLettered by John CostanzaAfter a relatively strong streak […]

    MORE »