“Never trust the storyteller. Only trust the story.”
Before I get into volume 6, I thought I’d explain why I’ve been posting these articles.
I am a huge Neil Gaiman fan. Many fans agree that Sandman is his best creation ever. (I’d also cite American Gods and Coraline) I’m also disappointed that the Vertigo imprint is gone. It was the best thing about DC. While Sandman actually started before the Vertigo imprint, it was still one of the imprint’s most well-known titles, second only to Hellblazer (which I have yet to read, sadly.) For years, these two comics defined the imprint’s desire to present well-written stories with mature themes.
Fables and Reflections is the second of the three volumes that actually collect short stories rather than focusing on arcs. (The others are Dream Country–vol. 3–and World’s End–vol. 8.) Because of this, you might think it can be skipped. I disagree. If you are going to read Sandman, you have to read all of it, even the short stories.
Here are my thoughts on each short. (Note: The short stories are not collected in the actual published order. Thus, I have included the original appearance for each story)
- “Fear of Falling” (Vertigo Preview #1)–The shortest, and in my opinion, the worst. An actor meets Dream and confronts his fear of heights.
- “Three Septembers and a January” (Sandman #31)–Despair is plaguing a man and strikes a contest with Dream, daring him to rescue the man. To make matters worse, Desire and Delirium are aligned with her. I loved this story, and it’s one of my top 3.
- “Thermidor” (Sandman #29)–A short encounter between Johanna Constantine (an ancestor of John Constantine) and Sandman. Not bad.
- “The Hunt” (Sandman #38)–A grandfather recounts meeting Baba Yaga, an old lady in Russian folklore who is searching for the Christ child, and leaves gifts at every child’s house, just on the chance that this child might be Jesus. Baba Yaga is one of my favorite Christmas stories, so I liked this one.
- “August” (Sandman #30)–A story about Augustus Caesar. This one’s kinda in the middle for me. Not good, but not bad either.
- “Soft Places” (Sandman #39)–A man meets Dream in the desert. Pretty good yarn here.
- “The Song of Orpheus” (Sandman Special)–The best story. This is the story of Orpheus, Dream’s son by his romance with Calliope, mentioned in vol. 3. It’s an excellent recount of the famous myth.
- “The Parliament of Rooks” (Sandman #40)–Daniel, the baby born in a dream, returns again, marking his second appearance in the novels. In this story, he comes upon the House of Mystery, a house in the Dreaming owned by Eve, Cain, and Abel. Eve tells him of the three wives Adam had (funny, I only heard of Lilith). I especially liked the story Cain and Abel told him about their first encounter with Dream and Death, who were just adorable children at the time. I liked this one almost as much as “The Song of Orpheus”.
- “Ramadan” (Sandman #50)–This story is written, lettered, and drawn in the Arabic tradition, which is appropriate for its name. It’s about Caliph Harun al-Rashid’s proposal to give Babylon to Dream, in the hopes that it will endure forever. I thought this story was kind of weak, although I wonder if it’s because I’m not familiar with the Caliph.
Next month, we are back in the main arc for Vol. 7, Brief Lives.