This is the first The Sandman that I’ve read, and it was obvious that this is not the place to start. I imagine that you have to already know these characters and their stories to get much out of this. Each vignette focuses on one of the Endless, who are evidently some mix of mythological god-like incarnations of human emotions… or something. There is not a lot of explanation for anyone new to the series. Some of the vignettes are stories. Some are fragmented portraits of that specific character. I thought the stories were weak, but that could be because I came into the book knowing nothing about the characters.
The artwork, on the other hand, made it a worthwhile read. I particularly enjoyed the artwork in “Fifteen Portraits of Despair” by Barron Storey and, of course, “Delirium Going Inside” with art by Bill Sienkiewicz. Storey’s portraits of Despair are fragmented and bizarre, capturing the terror and hopelessness that accompanies despair.
Sienkiewicz is a personal favorite. Delirium actually has a story, but I couldn’t make much sense of it. Maybe that’s the point, seeing that it is Delirium, but I got the feeling that there is a back story that I didn’t know that would have explained it. However, Sienkiewicz’s collage and watercolor style is brilliant as always.
I recently bought a used copy of the Classics Illustrated Moby Dick drawn by Bill Sienkiewicz, and I was not disappointed. This is the same Bill Sienkiewicz of Elektra and Daredevil fame, the same Sienkiewicz I thought was the greatest comic book artist of all time when I was a teen.
Sienkiewicz brings his unique brand of surrealism and expressionism to the great American novel about dark obsession and madness. Sienkiewicz’s art captures Ahab’s madness perfectly. As Ahab’s obsession grows, Sienkiewicz uses a recurring image of a scratchy black and white demonic face that appears in its own box. This, of course, captures the book’s theme perfectly. Sienkiewicz’s feverish depictions of the crew show how Ahab’s madness spreads to even the most reluctant sailors, and his depictions of the monsterish white whale draw the reader into the fear and mystery that have twisted Ahab’s mind.
If you’ve never read the orignial Moby Dick, Herman Melville intertwined chapters of action and theme-driven plot with scientific chapters on whales and the industry of whaling. It is a long and strange, but rewarding read. This graphic novel focuses on the action-driven plot and theme to capture the essence of the original story. All of the famous images and scenes from the original are here: the opening scenes with Ishmael and the tattooed savage, Queequeg; the appearance of Ahab on deck; the making of the coffin and Ahab’s special harpoon; the tri-works, etc.
You can find all of these samples and much more on Sienkiewicz’s site: http://www.billsienkiewiczart.com/