Sandman Deluxe Edition Book One

This is a review of The Sandman Deluxe Edition: Book One. I picked up the first two dozen issues of this title 30+ years ago, and then took a hiatus from reading comics. That was an interesting time in my life. But hey, who gives a shit, how’s the book?

WARNING: SPOILERS!

Pretty great, actually. Writing these fun reviews, I talk a lot about titles finding their legs. The Sandman comes flying out of the gate. The plot: Sandman, aka Morpheus, aka Dream, is captured in 1916 by a bunch of weirdo cultists who want to trap his sister Death. Dream is  imprisoned in a bubble for seventy years, and when he gets out his realm is a mess and he’s powerless.

The first story arc has Dream regain his objects of power, helmet, ruby, bag of sand. This involves John Constantine, a jaunt to Hell, and a duel with a demon. Dream meets a former lover in Hell – and it turns out he’s the one who sent her there. High quality stuff.

The Doctor Destiny (Dee) storyline is when things go off the rails. As a supervillain, Doctor Dee is nothing special. He uses Dream’s ruby to manifest nightmares. Here, Doctor Dee escapes from Arkham Asylum, picks up a woman at gunpoint, and has her drive him to the storage facility where his (Dream’s) ruby is stored. Dee and the woman talk on the way; they seem to bond. Thus, when he kills her it comes as a nasty surprise.

The next issue is even worse – or even better, depending on whether you’re a horror fan. The plot screeches to a halt as Doctor Dee torments and kills six people in a diner, a grindhouse of horror. The creative team rubs our faces in it, and then in the next issue the plot resumes and Dream gets his powers back. Consider this a warning…Sandman is a fantasy comic, but it is also horror – and many of these issues contain strong content that might be tough to read. I like horror, and I almost dropped Sandman from my pull list after the diner issue.

The second storyline involves Dream tracking down four stragglers from his realm, a serial killer convention, and a girl called Rose, who is something called a Dream Vortex. Rose is looking for her little brother, who is chained up in a basement by a pair of nasty customers. The focus of the story is more on Rose than Dream, a good choice. Honestly, Dream has no idea what makes mortals tick, which doesn’t make him the most relatable of characters. It also helps lead to his ultimate downfall, so nice foreshadowing there! The first storyline is tied to the DC Universe, the second becomes unmoored – not entirely, but this is when Dream and the DC Universe begin to part ways.

Anyway: you should read this.

Flash: Savage Velocity

Ah, the 1980’s. MTV, Ronald Reagan, Rocky Balboa, The Terminator, Freddy Krueger, buddy cop movies, Pee Wee Herman, Jason Voorhees, Ollie North, contras. Sting, singing Russians. I could go on but I won’t, because boy oh boy the 80’s sucked but the decade did produce some great comics. Thus, when Comixology held their annual end of the year sale, I picked up a copy of this book. I read some – not all – of the issues back in the day, and wanted a complete collection. The writer, Mike Baron, produced a bunch of comics in the 80’s – Nexus, Badger, The Punisher – and of course The Flash.

First things first: this is a very different Flash. Barry Allen, temporarily dead, is replaced by his youthful sidekick Wally West. Wally has been depowered– he can’t break the sound barrier, has to eat two or three times the amount of a normal person, and passes out after he uses his super speed.

Wally himself is written like a 20-year old. An immensely privileged, stupid lucky 20-year old. He buys a lottery ticket and becomes a multi-millionaire. His mom moves in with him and he can’t bring himself to throw her out. His girlfriend is a decade older than him. She’s also married, and when her husband finds out he injects himself with a steroid that gives him super strength and speed and tries to kill Wally. As happens in superhero comics.

Other standout villains in this volume include Vandal Savage, a caveman who dresses like a French lord and designs a highly addictive drug that grants its users super speed. The Chunk is a human event singularity who must consume 47x his weight or implode. The people Chunk consumes are transported to an apocalyptic hellhole. Despite this, Chunk isn’t exactly Doctor Doom, and is written more as a misguided soul than a villain.

This is a nice run by Mike Baron, who only stuck around for 14 issues plus an annual. The issues move fast, pun intended, and there’s an endearing weirdness to the stories, most of which are inspired by the 1980’s – Max Headroom, drug epidemics, the Cold War, ‘roid rage.

Wally himself isn’t portrayed in a very heroic light, whether he’s having an affair with a married woman, puttering around his Long Island mansion, or going to parties hosted by Mafia Dons. He’s written as a materialistic man incapable of saying no to any woman. Unsurprisingly, most of his relationships are shallow and dysfunctional. This was all part of DC’s grand experiment of giving their heroes personalities. It didn’t go on long, but it sure was interesting while it lasted.

I recommend this graphic novel. The first comic book I ever bought was an issue of The Flash, back in 1978 when Barry Allen wore the scarlet tights. I’ve read a lot of Flash since then, and I am here to say that Wally is a more interesting character than Barry Allen ever was. The powers that be might have brought Barry back, but Wally will always be my Flash.

Flash: Savage Velocity

Ah, the 1980’s. MTV, Ronald Reagan, Rocky Balboa, The Terminator, Freddy Krueger, buddy cop movies, Pee Wee Herman, Jason Voorhees, Ollie North, contras. Sting, singing Russians. I could go on but I won’t, because boy the 80’s sucked but the decade did produce some great comics. Thus, when Comixology had their annual end of the year sale, I picked up a copy of this book. I read some – not all – of the issues back in the day, and wanted a complete collection. The writer, Mike Baron, wrote a number of quality comics in the 80’s – Nexus, Badger, The Punisher – and of course The Flash.

First things first: this is a very different Flash. Barry Allen, temporarily dead, is replaced by his youthful sidekick Wally West. Wally has been depowered– he can’t break the sound barrier, has to eat two or three times the amount of a normal person, and passes out after he uses his super speed.

Wally himself is written like a 20-year old. An immensely privileged, stupid lucky 20-year old. He buys a lottery ticket and becomes a multi-millionaire. His mom moves in with him and he can’t bring himself to throw her out. His girlfriend is a decade older than him. She’s also married, and when her husband finds out he injects himself with a steroid that gives him super strength and speed and tries to kill Wally. As happens in superhero comics.

Other standout villains in this volume include Vandal Savage, a caveman who dresses like a French lord and designs a highly addictive drug that grants its users super speed. The Chunk is a human event singularity who must consume 47x his weight or implode. The people Chunk consumes are transported to an apocalyptic hellhole. Despite this, Chunk isn’t exactly Doctor Doom, and is written more as a misguided soul than a villain.

This is a nice run by Mike Baron, who only stuck around for 14 issues plus an annual. The issues move fast, pun intended, and there’s an endearing weirdness to the stories, most of which are inspired by the 1980’s – Max Headroom, drug epidemics, the Cold War, ‘roid rage. Wally himself isn’t portrayed in a very heroic light, whether he’s having an affair with a married woman, puttering around his Long Island mansion, or going to parties hosted by Mafia Dons. He’s written as materialistic and horny, a man incapable of saying no to any woman. Unsurprisingly, most of his relationships are shallow and dysfunctional. This was all part of DC’s grand experiment of giving their heroes personalities. It didn’t go on long, but it sure was interesting while it lasted.

I recommend this graphic novel. The first comic book I ever bought was an issue of The Flash, back in 1978 when Barry Allen wore the scarlet tights. I’ve read a lot of Flash since then, and I am here to say that Wally is a more interesting character than Barry Allen ever was. The powers that be might have brought Barry back, but Wally will always be my Flash.