The Sandman 2: The Doll’s House by Neil Gaiman: B

From the back cover:
Rose Walker finds more than she bargained for in the doll’s house—long lost relatives, a serial killers convention, and, ultimately, her true identity. The master of dreams attempts to unravel the mystery, unaware that the hand of another, far closer to home, is pulling the strings.

There were several things I quite liked in this volume. Two more of Morpheus’s siblings are introduced, and Desire (who can’t be satisfied with just one gender) is a really neat character. I also liked avuncular Gilbert, not a sibling but with mysterious origins of his own, who comes to Rose’s aid and reminded me of Sylvester McCoy as the Seventh Doctor.

The best part, though, was the chapter called “Men of Good Fortune,” which takes place in the middle of the Doll’s House arc but really doesn’t turn out to have much to do with it. In it, Morpheus and his sister, Death, encounter a man in 1389 who claims that he won’t ever want to succumb to death. And so Death decides not to claim him until he desires it, and Morpheus makes an appointment to visit with him every hundred years, accidentally befriending the fellow along the way. The story is neat, but I also really liked how their surroundings and wardrobes changed each time they met.

On the whole, though, I found this arc pretty damned depressing. Maybe I just wasn’t in the mood for so much darkness and surrealism. I also feel like there are probably some big, deep themes here that I’m just not getting.

The Sandman 1: Preludes & Nocturnes by Neil Gaiman: B+

From the inside flap:
Enter a dark and enchanting world of dreams and nightmares and meet the Sandman, master of dreams, and his kin—the Endless.

This first collection of Neil Gaiman’s unique and multi-award-winning Sandman saga introduces key themes and characters, combining myth, magic, and black humor.

This volume collects issues #1-8 of the Sandman comics. Morpheus, the Lord of Dreams, was inadvertently captured by some occultists who were attempting to trap and contain his sister, Death. They imprisoned him for 70 years and stole his stuff, and when he finally escaped, he wanted it back. He took the next few chapters to complete the quest.

I was occasionally lost when the story veered too far into mythological territory, and one story called “24 Hours” was incredibly disturbing, but on the whole I liked it. The best, however, was the last story, called “The Sound of Her Wings.” In it, Morpheus was a bit mopey because he’d completed his quest and his spunky sister came to drag him out of his doldrums. And throw bread at him.

As seems to be the case with comic books, the physical appearance of Morpheus was pretty inconsistent. I decided to think of him as Stephen Rea with blue hair, and that worked pretty well.

V for Vendetta by Alan Moore and David Lloyd: A

From the back cover:
A frightening and powerful story of the loss of freedom and identity in a totalitarian world. V for Vendetta is the chronicle of a world of despair and oppressive tyranny.

A work of sterling clarity and intelligence, V for Vendetta is everything comics weren’t supposed to be.

England Prevails.

Since I only recently saw the movie version of V for Vendetta, and completely loved it, I can’t help but write this review as a comparison between the two. The comic, while significantly different, is also excellent. The film, I think, is better at simplifying the themes of the work, and, of course, in wringing some more pathos out of the climactic scenes.

The comic is much better in filling in the complete picture. There’s a bit more detail about V’s past, and tons more about the government currently in power: its branches, the men who lead them, the wives who love or don’t love them, etc.

The characterization of Evey is a lot different, as well. I think I prefer the movie Evey, at least initially, but enough events are the same that she winds up in a similar place by the end of things. In fact, there’s more about Evey’s future in the GN that I wish the movie had showed. It’s cool.

So… this is an amazing story. I love both formats of it, but would probably recommend seeing the movie first so you’ll be unspoiled on surprises and such. I particularly liked that I saw it without yet knowing what actor was actually playing V.