As the second-to-last chapter in the miniseries, “The Sandman: Overture” #5 is in the process of setting up its conclusion. While the book is interesting overall as this prequel gives us all sorts of new information regarding the realm of “The Sandman,” it’s also hard to keep from feeling like Neil Gaiman and J.H. Williams III’s comic barely tries to work in the serialized format, with the overall collected edition as the ultimate endgame.
The overall publication delays (the first issue was published in October 2013) certainly haven’t helped the serialization experience but, nonetheless, this is a comic where Gaiman’s story is slow going. Most of this issue involves conversations between Dream and other characters and, while there’s a lot to mine from these moments, it’s hard to keep from putting down this issue as its own distinct unit and keep from feeling like very little actually happened.
That’s not to say that there’s literally no plot advancement. Dream escapes from the black hole in a manner that is both fortuitous and unexpected, and the Cat Dream proves to be the only aspect of this member of the Endless who seems to understand how to try and stop the mad star. However, the rewards within the story are more for the longtime readers who get to meet the mother of the Endless and, to a lesser extent, the interaction with the normally lacking-in-interactions Destiny. When united with its five other chapters, I suspect that the overall flow from one segment to the next will feel smooth and the book more satisfying. This issue wraps up just when it feels like things are getting started.
On the bright side, where the story starts to drag, the art from Williams and Dave Stewart is as inventive and eye-catching as ever. Pages within the realm of Night aren’t so much laid out as they blossom across the page, beautiful, baroque flowers that unfold and unfurl their contents for all of us to see. Williams continually plays little tricks in how the pages are laid out, from Dusk pulling back the literal curtain in the form of the background of the page to the pages of Destiny’s book slipping off of the layout to reveal a different, unearthly realm behind it. In many ways, it’s hard to get too annoyed with the slow pace from one issue to the next because the amount of work that Williams and Stewart put in is astounding. Stewart’s colors are a great match for Williams’ art yet again; they have an astounding amount of depth and texture to them and they’re able to handle the ethereal realm that looks almost like watercolors one moment and more substantial the next. Williams and Stewart continue to prove themselves an amazing match for one another.
When it’s all said and done, few people will even remember the serialization of “The Sandman: Overture,” as its readership expands substantially through the collected edition. There’s also no doubt that the book is much better suited for that format, too; that said, though, the serialized format is all we have to judge it by for the time being. Thanks to some interesting ideas and some amazing art, it’s still well above average and worth reading. However, it’s also not quite as dazzlingly amazing as when it initially debuted. Hopefully, some of that wonder will finally reappear in the final issue, whenever that might be.