Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Sandman: Dream Hunters #1

Written by Neil Gaiman
Adapted by P Craig Russell
Colourist: Lovern Kindzierski
Letterer: Todd Klein
Editor: Karen Berger

Sandman: The Dream Hunters started life as a novella by Neil Gaiman and Yoshitaka Amano - one of the few Sandman stories I haven't read, actually. This is a comic book adaptation by P Craig Russell, who's apparently been lobbying to do it for years. It's being done now to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of Sandman - which actually started in 1989, but it'll be 2009 by the time the series finishes and the collection comes out.

It's the sort of Sandman story which isn't about Dream at all. It's a mock Japanese fable, where he shows up as an observer to offer some commentary.

And it's the sort of story that most writers wouldn't get away with. Arbitrary weirdness abounds, but Gaiman holds it together with an intangible sense that this is just how things are. Talking animals with inexplicable shape-changing powers? Sure. Okay. If you say so. This sort of thing is tricky to pull off; judge it wrong, and it can seem terribly arch. But Gaiman has great instincts for this kind of thing.

Remaking the thing as a comic, at first glance, seems a bit unnecessary. But then, there's something to be said for seeing a different artist take a crack at a good story. And Russell, with a good script, is always a joy. Bits of this story don't entirely lend themselves to comics - chunks of expository narrative, for example - but he makes them work. There are some brilliant layouts here, pages held together with precisely diagonal rain. The animals are wonderfully expressive, and if the demons are a bit cute... well, it's not that sort of story, is it?

It may be a remake, but it's a beautiful remake.

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