Friday Review: The Sandman Volume 6: Fables and Reflections by Neil Gaiman

The Sandman, Vol. 6: Fables and ReflectionsThe Sandman, Vol. 6: Fables and Reflections by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Is there a distinction between comic books and graphic novels? Some say yes, some say no. Some say that graphic novels are more complete, that the stories are finished in one or two issues, where comic books can stretch a storyline for months. Others will say they are the same thing, with different focus. I don’t know. I used to read what we called comic books many years ago. You know- those small, thin paper books that came out every month, and were mostly superhero stories. The Sandman books are nothing like those. These are developed, intricately plotted short stories, told with illustrations. The series has overall arcs, but the individual stories, for the most part, are separate. They are like comic books in that the illustrations, coloring, even the lettering choice all add to the story as much as the plot lines. And they are very, very good.

Yes, I am a fan of Neil Gaiman. I love his stories, his style, and his imagination. And the Sandman stories are no exception. For those who may not be familiar, the Sandman is Morpheus, or Dream as he is known in the stories. He is one of the Seven Endless (the others are Destiny, Death, Desire, Despair, Delirium, and Destruction). Morpheus rules over the Dreaming, and the stories are usually set there.

Volume 6 is a collection of short pieces, instead of one longer story. The stories are:
Fear of Falling
Three Septembers and a January
The Hunt
Soft Places
The Parliament of Rooks

They are all different, and incorporate Gaiman’s usual blend of horror, fantasy, and mythology. There are retellings of classic myths (Orpheus), historical references (Thermidor and The Hunt), and lessons to learn (Three Septembers and a January, and Ramadan). Dream himself often takes a back seat to the other characters in the stories, which is a departure from other volumes. The exception is Orpheus, which is played out here as sort of a family history, with all the Endless appearing.

This is a wonderful addition to the Sandman series. The individual stories are good, though some are better than others. Some may not like there not being a strong story line for Dream here, but the sidenotes and backgrounds we get are fascinating. I liked the anthology format, since each story can be read separately and wraps up its story line in short bites. Fans of Gaiman and the Sandman will enjoy it.

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