An Awkward Beginning? Sandman Preludes and Nocturnes (1991) Review

The Graveyard Book was the only work of Neil Gaiman I was familiar with.

I thought it was ok; it had interesting characters, an interesting premise, I didn’t think it was the masterpiece everyone claimed it to be but I was convinced that Gaiman was a good writer with a unique imagination.

I had heard nothing but good things about Sandman.

While I’m aware that many fans, critics and even Gaiman himself have said the first volume, Preludes and Nocturnes, is a bit awkward and not that great, I thought it was fascinating and very entertaining.

Awkward? Let's have a look.
Awkward? Let’s have a look.

Dream (often referred to as Morpheus) is the anthropomorphic personification of dreams. He is captured in an occult ritual and imprisoned for nearly seventy years.

He escapes and, after finding his realm in ruins, tries to track down the location of his tools and rebuild his kingdom.

The main problem with Preludes and Nocturnes is the protagonist.

Morpheus, despite how interesting and cool-looking he is, isn’t very empathetic.

He’s cynical, intimidating and he makes for a compelling character but I didn’t really care about him.


There are many antagonists in the story arc but Doctor Destiny, an old skeletal scientist, is the main one. He steals one of Morpheus’s tools, a ruby, and uses it to drive everyone to insanity. Destiny is a brilliant dark twist on the evil scientist archetype.

When Morpheus encounters him, he doesn’t seem really threatened. Its difficult to care for a character when he or she doesn’t express any concern in the conflict.

Despite its issues with the protagonist, Preludes and Nocturnes presents a beautifully dark and gritty fantasy world, something you won’t see in your average superhero comic.

The best story in the issue is undoubtedly the last one, The Sound of Her Wings. This, in Gaiman’s words, is the ‘epilogue’ to the arc.

After completing the quest Morpheus feels he has no purpose and falls into a deep depression. His sister, Death, comforts him and persuades him to explore the world he left seventy years ago.

The characterization of Death is wonderful. She’s quirky, empathizes with mortality, funny and adds an energy to the story that was absent.


In conclusion Preludes and Nocturnes may be difficult to get emotionally invested in but its world and characters are unique and interesting enough to get you through the whole volume.

I’ll definitely be checking out the other volumes because from what I’ve heard the series just gets better from here.

Preludes and Nocturnes earns a respectful 7 out of 10.  


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