Tag Archives: Dave McKean

Season of Mists

Author: Neil Gaiman

The Sandman, vol. 4

My rating: 4 of 5

WARNING: MATURE AUDIENCE

Destiny of the Endless has gathered his siblings together, setting the wheels of fate in motion and sending his brother Dream on a quest to Hell to right an old wrong. But when Morpheus arrives, he finds an empty Hell in which Lucifer declares that he quits and hands Morpheus the key to Hell. And so, the dead return. The demons wander unrestrained. And Dream is left with an unwelcome burden . . . one that many others would gladly relieve him of, whether it would be wise to permit them to or not.

Season of Mists wasn’t my favorite of the Sandman volumes so far (I have an extreme fondness for Dream Country); however, it was certainly intriguing and presented itself as a complete and united tale more than some of the volumes of this graphic novel have. There’s definitely some wonky theology, but it was fascinating to see the juxtaposition of different pantheons and philosophies all vying for Dream’s favor and interacting together in the Dreaming. And Dream’s reactions to all of them most certainly gained him several extra coolness points in my books. It was nice to see some resolution of the Dream/Nada story as well. And ooh, getting to see more development of the Dreaming was very neat; I loved the artistic renderings of that. All in all, Season of Mists was a solid addition to Dream’s story, and it seems to leave us set up for some interesting occurrences in the next volume, which I am looking forward to reading.

On a completely random side note, the creator biographies in this volume are absolute rubbish but well worth reading–utterly random and silly, but very funny.

Covers and Design by Dave McKean/Illustrated by Kelley Jones, Mike Dringenberg, Malcolm Jones III, Matt Wagner, Dick Giordano, George Pratt, & P. Craig Russell/Lettered by Todd Klein/Colored by Steve Oliff & Daniel Vozzo

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Dream Country

Author: Neil Gaiman

The Sandman, vol. 3

My rating: 4.5 of 5

WARNING: MATURE AUDIENCE

A struggling author manages to enslave a muse for his own benefit, inspiring amazing ideas but at what cost? Elsewhere, a stray cat attempts to unite a large enough group of cats to dream the same thing and thus alter reality . . . good luck with that one. Centuries before, Will Shakespeare and his motley band of players perform his Dream for an otherworldly audience. And a woman given transformative powers by the sun-god Ra is cursed to never be truly human again.

I swear, this series just keeps getting better! Dream Country is basically a short-story collection in graphic novel form, featuring four unique stories in which Morpheus is a minor character. All four are strange and unique and kind of wonderful in different ways. Which isn’t to say that they’re all happy and fun; some of them, perhaps even parts of all of them, are dark and pensive. Creative and brilliant, still. My favorite was the one featuring Shakespeare–which incidentally won a World Fantasy Award. The story itself is lovely and strange, and Charles Vess’s artwork is just perfect for it. Actually, Vess’s art is basically ideal for Gaiman’s writing in general, or at least for his fantasy; they mesh ridiculously well. The art for the whole collection is quite nice, although for the last story (the Ra one) I struggled for the first bit to figure out what on earth was actually going on. I think that’s just the story and how strange it is, mostly, though. I would highly recommend Dream Country, both for those who are in the midst of reading The Sandman as a series and for those who are just interested in a collection of independent graphic shorts by Gaiman; I don’t think the previous or future volumes are necessary to enjoy this collection.

Covers & Design by Dave McKean/Illustrated by Charles Vess, Malcolm Jones III, Kelley Jones,  & Colleen Doran/Lettered by Todd Klein

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The Doll’s House

Author: Neil Gaiman

The Sandman, vol. 2

My rating: 4.5 of 5

WARNING: MATURE AUDIENCE

After his long absence from the Dream world and his imprisonment in the world of the living, Morpheus returns to Dream to survey his lands, taking stock of those members who are missing and beginning his search for them. Little does he know that some of his younger siblings among the Endless are stirring up trouble for him in secret. Meanwhile, in the human world, Rose Walker is united in England for the first time with her grandmother Unity (a victim of the sleeping sickness that came over so many children for a time) and subsequently returns to the United States to search for her long-lost little brother in hopes of uniting the family. She meets a number of interesting individuals during her search, including Morpheus himself, unwitting that she herself is a dream vortex that he must deal with or risk the destruction of Dream entirely.

Well, I have to say that, although I was not particularly impressed with the first Sandman comic, Preludes & Nocturnes, Gaiman thoroughly made up for the issues I found in that book in The Doll’s House. It made me regret having waited so long to press on with the series. Whereas Preludes & Nocturnes never truly felt like Gaiman’s work, never really set properly (barring that lovely last chapter), The Doll’s House feels throughout like one of his books. It has the right flavor, the right perspectives on things, the right spark that I can’t properly describe; I can only say that it works. The entire volume reads like a novel, having a cohesive plot with multiple, interlacing stories. It also traces back to stories told in the first volume, actually giving them more weight and purpose in my mind. I really loved all the dream sequences that were a part of this book and the way in which they played into the plot. Even more so, I appreciated the way in which the author discussed the ideas of destiny and fate and free will; you would think this theme would be exhausted by now, but it’s something so integral to humanity that perhaps it will always be a pertinent topic. I like Rose’s character as well; she’s got spunk but she’s also kind of broken, and it’s interesting to see that developed. The art is very well done, although still in a very comic-book style that I’m still gradually adjusting to. Fair warning that this is definitely geared for an adult audience and there’s some pretty gristly violence (though not nearly as bad as the first volume) and some nudity here. I definitely enjoyed reading The Doll’s House and am now actually quite looking forward to future volumes of The Sandman in spite of the series’ rocky start.

Covers & Design by Dave McKean/Illustrated by Mike Dringenberg & Malcolm Jones III/Colored by Zylonol/Lettered by Todd Klein & John Costanza

 

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The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish

the day i swapped my dad for two goldfishAuthor: Neil Gaiman

Illustrator: Dave McKean

My rating: 4.5 of 5

One day, a boy gets a bright idea: his dad’s being boring just reading the paper and his best friend has these really cool goldfish in a bowl. So . . . why not trade? The friend’s goldfish for the boy’s dad. His sister warns him that it’s not a good idea–but seriously, who listens to their little sister? Then his mom comes home and confirms his sister’s warnings. Firmly. The boy is sent to return the goldfish and get his dad back, but of course it’s not that simple. See, his friend took hold of the idea of swapping and continued the trend. It might be a while before they even find his dad.

As you probably know, I adore Neil Gaiman’s writing. Reading The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish was an interesting experience in that, while it was definitely written with Gaiman’s classic skill and fine touch, it was also a picture book. Definitely different from most of his works that I’ve read before in that regard. Still, the story was interesting–although I leave it to parents’ judgment whether they want to expose such ridiculous ideas to their kids. But if read in good fun and not at all seriously, the story is just that: fun. The wild goose chase the boy and his sister go on is kind of reminiscent of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie in that one thing leads to the next leads to the next in a humorous sort of way. I do think this is better for a slightly older audience though–it’s still definitely a kids’ picture book, but maybe more like 5- to 6-year-old readers rather than 3- to 4-year-old readers, say. Of course, I probably say that mostly because of the art itself. McKean’s pictures are wonderful, whimsical, and infinitely creative, combining photographs and drawings in a wild collage. It works really well, but I do think it’s odd and hard for younger kids to understand at places. Regardless, I would definitely recommend The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish as a fun, funny, whimsical picture book.

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Mouse Bird Snake Wolf

Author: David Almond

Illustrator: Dave McKean

The gods have mostly finished creating a beautiful world full of all sorts of interesting things, but they got bored and lazy before they finished, and now they’re lazing about napping and dining. Meanwhile, the world is left with areas that are simply . . . empty. Living in this world are three children–Harry, Sue, and Little Ben–who take the time to really look at these holes in reality and to imagine what ought to belong there. But they go further than dreaming–they create their dreams out of sticks and clay and will them into life. It’s all wonderful and exciting until Harry and Sue dream up something terrifying . . . something that might be to terrible to be undone.

Well. Mouse Bird Snake Wolf is an imaginative illustrated short story, I must admit. To give it its due, it is creative, bright, cohesive, and has an interesting twist at the end. But . . . I don’t know. I’ve tried reading a few of David Almond’s books, and they never quite resonate with me–I think because there’s a lot of unusual philosophies woven deeply into them so that it’s hard for me to take them at face value. For that very reason, I don’t think I would give this book to children to read, even though it’s pretty clearly marketed as a children’s book; I posit that it is definitely an adult book with adult implications. I’ll let you read it for yourself and form your own opinions regarding that. As for the art, well, being a Neil Gaiman fan, it’s sort of a given that I also greatly enjoy Dave McKean’s work. I think his pictures suit this story nicely, in a weird sort of way. The colors, textures, contrasts, and shapes are probably my favorite part of this book . . . but I think most people would find the pictures to be the weirdest and most disturbing part. Sooo . . . if you’re interested in an unusual, philosophically challenging, and creepily-illustrated short story, you might find Mouse Bird Snake Wolf worth checking out. Frankly, I probably won’t read it again, for what it’s worth.

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Preludes & Nocturnes

Author: Neil Gaiman

Illustrators: Sam Kieth, Mike Dringenberg, & Malcolm Jones III

The Sandman, vol. 1

Over his many unending years of life and influence, he has been called many things: Morpheus, Dream, the Sandman. When an unholy ceremony intended to summon and imprison his older sister Death, Dream finds himself drawn in instead. The items in which he has hidden his power taken from him, he sits in a glass prison for years upon years–so long that his original captors have all died. When Dream finally does manage to escape, he finds himself destitute in a world of chaos, much of his power scattered and in the hands of others. And so, he sets off on a quest to reclaim his powers and restore order to the realm of the night.

I have been a fan of Neil Gaiman ever since I first read Neverwhere and The Graveyard Book ages ago, but it’s only recently that I discovered his work in graphic novels by picking up The Books of Magic. I’ve heard really impressive reviews of The Sandman even before I started reading graphic novels; however, I must say that Preludes & Nocturnes wasn’t really what I expected. There was too much of a usual comic-book feel–the author himself even says in the afterword that he was trying to emulate various traditional comic styles–and honestly, there is altogether too much unnecessary violence and horror. I love Gaiman’s work for its overwhelming fantasy; he doesn’t need to stoop to cheap horror. However, the last chapter gave me hope for greater things from the future volumes of The Sandman, enough that I definitely intend to read on. I do appreciate the unexpected sparks of depth that show up scattered throughout, as well as the many allusions to mythology, literature, etc. . . . although the Justice League allusions just weird me out a bit. As for the art, well, if you’re used to a comic book style, it’s probably normal enough. Maybe even impressive. I haven’t read enough of them to know; I just know that the coloring and style are really strange to someone like me who usually reads manga. So yeah, overall, Preludes & Nocturnes is definitely not my favorite Gaiman work, but I’m holding on judging the story as a whole until I’ve read the other volumes.

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Coraline

coralineAuthor: Neil Gaiman

Illustrator: Dave McKean

My rating: 5 of 5

When Coraline and her absent-minded parents move to a new flat in a big old house, nothing much changes. Her parents are still busy with work, her dad still cooks recipes which she detests, there’s still nothing to do. Until one day, a door which usually just has a bricked-off wall behind it opens, and Coraline finds that it leads, not to a blank wall, but to another world. A world quite like her own, but flashier, more exciting. A world with parents just like her real ones, but with black button eyes. And from there, it just gets creepier. . . .

Coraline is brilliantly chilling. It takes the concept of a horror story and looks at it from a child’s perspective. The result is a story that’s beautifully creepy, even for adults. Gaiman has a clear grasp of how to use our fear of the unknown to great advantage. On top of the excellent use of horror, Coraline has a vivid cast, particularly the spunky main character (and the cat!). The story also concludes well; there’s a sense of finality that I think is important in children’s books. However, on a deeper level, there is a lingering sensation of uneasiness which is also appealing. This is a highly recommended story.

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