Not every comic is made for kids (The Sandman: Preludes and Nocturnes)

 

xsandman-pagespeed-ic-0h6xpkrw0

People say comics are for kids. That at some point you outgrow them. Plenty of grown adults who would disagree wholeheartedly with that statement. Blending visual and literary storytelling can lead to some of the most compelling stories out there. I’ve reviewed 2 Sisters, and I’ve read V for Vendetta before. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention The Sandman.

No, it’s not about the shape-shifter made of sand from Spider-Man 3. Published by Vertigo, which is owned by DC Comics, Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman: Preludes and Nocturnes is the first book in a series about Morpheus, a powerful entity with dark hair and even darker eyes. Stripped of his powers, Morpheus must reclaim his rightful place as the Master of Dreams before the world plunges into chaos. Sounds like a fairly typical comic plot, I know, but I refuse to give anything substantial away. Gaiman’s comic isn’t hailed as the greatest comic of all time for nothing. You’ll have to read it yourself.

What can I tell you about The Sandman, you ask? It’s bizarre in only a way that Gaiman can pull off. Granted, he only writes the stories. A team of illustrators brought all the creepy, twisted monsters to the page. Everything originated from Gaiman’s imagination, though. The ooze dripping from the walls, the riddles of Hell and all the demons under Satan’s command, even the interactions with other DC characters are all Gaiman’s ideas.

gallerygraphicnovels_v_1900x900_sandman_v1_52afa1c6179ff4-20839951

Plenty of classic DC characters and locations are referenced, and some even make an appearance. John Constantine receives a visit from Morpheus Arkham Asylum serves as a setting over several issues. Even Batman shows up, if only in a vision.

That being said, Morpheus’ journey takes him to the fringes of the DC Universe, primarily venturing to new territories where few of the classic DC characters would stand a chance. In no way, shape, or form do you have to be a DC fan to appreciate The Sandman. Think of it as more of a bonus.

There’s not much of the classic comic-book style BANG or POW in this. Gaiman opts for a darker, more terrifying vision, with very little physical conflict. Everything is either intelligent wordplay or mysterious, supernatural powers. Morpheus’ abilities are never spelled out for us, leaving us with a sense of wonder as to what he is capable of. There is one moment near the end where my eyes widened and I couldn’t help but whisper, “Whoa!” The buildup to it makes it even more powerful.

If you aren’t a comic fan, I feel that The Sandman: Preludes and Nocturnes will prove to be beyond entertaining, if not downright captivating. Most importantly, it proves that comics are one of the greatest media for storytelling.

 

If you’ve read The Sandman: Preludes and Nocturnes, let me know what your thoughts are.

I’m always looking for new stories, no matter the medium. If you know of any great books, movies, or video games that you absolutely love, let me know in the comments and, if I hadn’t read it, I’ll add it to the list!

2 Sisters: A Super-Spy Graphic Novel

 

I’m not completely obsessed with comics, although I do enjoy them. They do a great job combining visual and literary storytelling, and sometimes masterpieces such as Watchmen and V For Vendetta cut through all the rehashed Batman and Spider-Man stories. Don’t get me wrong, Batman and Spider-Man are great, but sometimes a different style from the glossy, mainstream comic we know and love is more powerful overall.

2 Sisters: A Super-Spy Graphic Novel is certainly different, from the story Matt Kindt guides readers through to the paper it’s made on. It’s over 300 pages of heavy paper filled with rich characters and settings, yet it’s easy to read. It’s almost too easy, to be honest.

Kindt combines several different stories set over several time periods, cutting between them and sometimes showing them in parallel when the story demands it. I found myself stopping when they suddenly cut from England in the throes of World War II to scenes of piracy on the high seas to make sure I didn’t miss anything. At the end of 2 Sisters, however, all the stories compliment each other nicely, even though they may not be directly related.

The main story focuses on Elle, a British nurse turned spy during World War II. Throughout her journey, Kindt slowly reveals the defining moments of her childhood with her outgoing sister and emotionally distant father through simple and effective flashbacks. It’s all intercut with thievery in Ancient Rome, exploits in Venice, and a tale of resourceful survival during the golden age of piracy.

One aspect of this story is that it follows or is directly influenced by a strong female character. Elle’s story in particular shines, and not just because she’s the main character. She doesn’t succeed in this story because of her gender or in spite of it. In fact, her gender is rarely mentioned. She has relatable motivations. She’s tough. She has a gift for espionage. That’s it. No one makes a big deal about her being a woman, she just does her job damn well. While it’s certainly more common to see strong women taking the lead now than it was twenty years ago, it’s still great to see it in graphic novel adventures such as this.

Another part of the magic of 2 Sisters is how purely visual everything is. Kindt utilizes a relatively muted color palate and a simple artistic style to show the motivations and thought processes of each character. Even intricate events or processes that might have taken a whole block of text to explain in a more traditional comic are rendered through simple visual devices that keep the reader immersed in the story. Elle’s facial expressions and body language tell the readers everything they need to know about her without any thought bubbles revealing her running thoughts. Kindt’s sparing use of dialogue reinforces the visual power of 2 Sisters, with everything from the way it’s written to its simplicity.

I picked up this book on a whim, completely unsure of what to expect. If you don’t like graphic novels, then 2 Sisters may not be for you. However, if that’s your thing, it’s a fast read, fairly easy to follow, and visually powerful. I definitely recommend it if you’re looking for something different than your usual superhero comics.

 

If you’ve read 2 Sisters, let me know what your thoughts are!

I’m always looking for new stories, no matter the medium. If you know of any great books, movies, or video games that you absolutely love, let me know in the comments and, if I hadn’t read it, I’ll add it to the list!