Sandman Universe #1
Writers: Neil Gaiman, Si Spurrier, Dan Watters, Nalo Hopkinson, Kat Howard
Artists: Bilquis Evely, Sebastian Flumara, Max Flumara, Tom Fowler, Domonike Stanton
Fans of modern fantasy writing are well acquainted with Neil Gaiman, the NY Times bestselling author behind American Gods, Neverwhere, and many others. Decades prior to the celebrity he now enjoys, he was writing Vertigo’s Sandman. The ground-breaking book is one of several from the 1980s credited with re-invigorating and re-defining the world of comics. Now, 30 years later, Neil Gaiman and a team of writers and artists are not only opening the doors back up to the Sandman Universe but expanding it as well. Sandman Universe #1 serves as a gateway to four new series set within the Sandman Universe. The Dreaming, Books of Magic, House of Whispers and Lucifer will all be forthcoming.
Each of these new stories is suffused with the DNA of the original Sandman arcs and stories, with their dense layers of allegory, metaphor, and symbolism. They are each helmed by their own creative team, grafting new DNA onto Gaiman’s already robust ecosystem of stories. Each story is teased in this introductory issue, featuring the writer and illustrator of each of the four new series. It makes for a wildly atmospheric ride, filled with foreshadowing and easter eggs.
While generally wholly outside of the regular DC continuity, the events of Dark Nights: Metal spilled over into the Dreaming as well; there is a crack in the firmament of the Dreaming, Daniel, Lord of Dreams is AWOL, a new House, the House of Whispers, has appeared, Lucifer is attempting to break the cycle of damnation, and a book from the Dreaming has appeared in the real world. These four threads will weave the new stories of the Sandman Universe, bringing generations new and old back into its embrace- quite possibly the most impactful event to come from the over-wrought and labyrinthine Dark Nights: Metal.
Fantastic Four #1
Writer: Dan Slott
Artist: Sara Pichelli
With the conclusion of his 10-year run on Amazing Spider-Man, Dan Slott has swung his way over to Fantastic Four, another massive branch of the Marvel tree. The legendary team of cosmic adventurers has been off the board for the most part, due to one half of the team being lost to the vast expanse of the universe. While Slott’s first salvo sadly does not feature the present-day reunion readers have been pining for, it does have a great flashback sequence, and it does set up the reunion itself, promised for the second issue. It also establishes a newly-ascendant Victor Von Doom, retaking his rightful place as the leader of Latveria. While they’re far from average, the Fantastic Four is arguably the most tight-knit family unit in the Marvel Universe, and when so many of the stories and arcs deal with the fractious nature of bickering costumed heroes and villains, a semblance of a nuclear family seems like a welcome port in the storm.
That’s not to say there’s not going to be conflict; Ben Grimm’s legendary temper flares up right before Johnny Storm’s does in a powerful scene. The Fantastic Four’s new adventure is introduced as one of love, loss, loyalty, and home. Sara Pichelli’s illustration is bright and open, and her panels keep the pacing from running away into the cosmos. While the Fantastic Four maybe some of the most senior heroes Marvel has to offer, they’re also some of the most adored. Whatever reasons there were behind the order to put them on ice back in 2014, they’re back on the menu now. Even if the relief of reunion is shortlived in the storyline itself, the homecoming of Fantastic Four to the shelves of comic shops is something to celebrate.
Hey Kids! Comics! #1
Writer: Howard Chaykin
Artist: Don Cameron
The history of comic books is the stuff of legend. Books and memoirs have been written about it, and even within comics themselves, there are countless self-referential moments. After Jack Kirby and Stan Lee split up, a jilted Kirby famously created Funky Flashman, a conniving and thieving caricature of Stan Lee as a character in Mr. Miracle. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon, while a work of fiction, borrow heavily from the history behind the creators of Superman and other early pioneers of the graphic medium so coveted today. From low-brow entertainment to the high-concept art that permeates almost every inch of culture today, the comic book has come a long way, and its journey is a controversial subject.
Howard Victor Chaykin aims to embrace the contentious history and tell the story of the personalities behind it all. While the names have all been changed, Chaykin’s story offers a crash-course in history as he explores the feuding and intrigue that go on behind the closed doors of comic studios. Illustrator Don Cameron supplies an unvarnished, yet dramatic portrayal of the characters, framing the story with panels that seem to capture the nervous energy of the writers and artists as their careers speed by in just a few short pages. For those interested in how the sausage is made, Hey Kids! Comics! offers a window into the fraught process that has given the world entire universes.