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Sandman: The Dream Hunters #1 Review

Was there ever more of a sure thing than the new Sandman mini-series, The Dream Hunters, which is P. Craig Russell’s adaptation of the illustrated Sandman novel of Neil Gaiman and Yoshitaka Amano? The original Dream Hunters by Gaiman and Amano was great, P. Craig Russell is great, you can certainly question the necessity of such an adaptation, but the quality of the comic is pretty nearly a guarantee.

But just for the sake of argument – is this comic good?

You bet it is!

First off, pretty sweet cover, no?

As to the actual story, the one real drawback we have is that this story was written by Gaiman as a complete story, not as a serialized one, so Russell has to determine when to end each issue, but otherwise, this is the same story as the original Dream Hunters – a fox spirit falls in love with a Buddhist monk, and Morpheus gets involved.

The artwork by Russell is absolutely gorgeous.

Here are a couple of pages…

Stunning, isn’t it?

Interestingly enough, the original Dream Hunters translates to comic form very easily, and Russell really doesn’t even need to do THAT much deconstructing, but whatever he does do, he does it well.

The result is a great comic book.

I would have preferred to see an all-new work from the two creators, but simply judging this work on its own, it is wonderful.

If you’ve read the original Dream Hunters, Recommended.

If you haven’t read the original Dream Hunters, Highly Recommended.

18 Comments

Tom Fitzpatrick

November 5, 2008 at 6:19 am

P. Craig Russell’s art’s always a delight to look at.

What Opus # is this one?

This looks gorgeous – Russell’s work usually is – but my general feeling of “What’s the point?” is preventing me from getting excited about this. The story’s not that old (or, much as I like it, so classic) that it needed to be re-told, and it already looked pretty damned good in the first place.

As good as this might be, I just have higher standards for Vertigo than this. It feels too safe, and generally redundant.

This looks gorgeous – Russell’s work usually is – but my general feeling of “What’s the point?” is preventing me from getting excited about this.

Took the words right out my mouth.

I guess the point is that some people (myself included) prefer comics to prose. That said, I’m not really sure if I’m interested. Experience has taught me that adaptations tend to be crap.

Well i order this on DCBS, so I will excited when it comes at the end of the month. Man its hard to wait when comics only come at the end of the month

Can someone explain to me the allure of Russell’s work? I’m asking honestly here. It wasn’t until I started visiting here that I realized he was a well-lauded figure in comics illustration. Previously, I just thought he was some not-quite-bottom-of-barrel fill-in artist. Then I see you guys going on and on about him. I see Mignola praising him in Hellboy v. 7. I think I’ve seen Gaiman praising him. And I just can’t figure out what it is I’m missing.

Years ago, I picked up both volumes of his Ring of the Nieblung, but I still haven’t been able to get more than thirty pages in. I always due to my distaste for his art. It was the same with Hellboy v. 7. It took me a long time to pick it up because I saw it featured P.Craig Russell art. I finally did and found his art (in my mind) stripped Hellboy of everything the character and story are about.

But if so many people (and even people I respect) think he’s awesome, I’m surely missing something. Could someone take me through it?

To help you understand where I’m coming from, here’s what I don’t like. The loose hatching he uses to denote shadow (see the tail and legs of the fox and the back half of the badger in the second panel of page two above); that drives me crazy. His people and animals don’t have any depth to them (in my eyes) and all feel rather hollow—and a bit cartoony. I think this style could work well for certain projects, but detracts from the mood of the stories he often tries to tell.

I did however love that first page of story art. The one with the temple and the scenery with the larger mountain looming in the back. That was a perfect scene layout.

So what am I missing. Perhaps if someone explained his genius, it would help me better appreciate Mr. Russell’s work.

Dane,

I’m not at my mosty articulate when trying to describe why I like a certain artist’s work, but I’ll try.

First, I love how he draws. You don’t. It may just come down to taste, although I hope other posters here can explain his appeal more completely.

Russell’s sense of design, and ability to make a page flow, are key. His layouts are original without being confusing. Russell has storytelling tricks above and beyond most of his peers. See, for example, how he sets up Baghdad as a thriving city full of wonder in Sandman 50 (“Ramadan”). His characters are lively, and his grasp of anatomy (as well as when and how to exaggerate) is exemplary. The cartoony elements give his characters warmth and life; the movements of the figures make sense. His linework can be delicate without being fussy. His backgrounds can be ornate and fully-realized without being overrendered.

I hope you have a better idea of why Russell’s work has so many admirers.

Thanks for that Mike. I do appreciate Russell’s design sense and the flow with which he approaches his story-telling, so I’m with you there. I think that it may be that like with Frank Quitely, the artist’s superior designwork doesn’t (for me) overcome what is just an illustrative style that doesn’t light my fire.

Obviously, as beloved as he is, he almost has to be a good artist. Perhaps just one that I will remain unable to appreciate. However, I’ll check out “Ramadan” when i get home (I’ve got the first three Sandman Absolutes, but I’ve been holding off on reading them until I have volume 4 in my hands). Maybe I’ll start to turn around on his work!

Anyway, thanks for taking the time.

FunkyGreenJerusalem

November 5, 2008 at 6:27 pm

If you don’t like his art in Ramadan, then I think it’s safe to assume you just don’t like his art.

I also can’t really articulate what I like about his work, I just know that I do.

I wouldn’t let it bother you too much, we’ve all got an artist or writer that everyone else loves, yet can’t figure out why.

To help you understand where I’m coming from, here’s what I don’t like. The loose hatching he uses to denote shadow (see the tail and legs of the fox and the back half of the badger in the second panel of page two above); that drives me crazy. His people and animals don’t have any depth to them (in my eyes) and all feel rather hollow—and a bit cartoony. I think this style could work well for certain projects, but detracts from the mood of the stories he often tries to tell.

He has the option to keep his lines to a minimum because his contours are gorgeous. It’s audacious. The way the he keeps his opposing lines dynamic, not forming symmetries:

|   |
|   |
|   |

…not:

(   )
) (
(   )

…but a fine and nuanced:

(   (
)   )
(   (

…allows him to suggest the volume of the figure with shape alone.

I just read Russell’s adaptation of Gaiman’s Coraline today; it was very good. Russell has a clean, crisp style that I really adore. I think creators like him, aside from pretty art, for his ability to adapt script to comics storytelling. His Oscar Wilde stuff and Bradybury’s Golden Apples of the Sun are standout.

I missed the first version of this story, so I’ll be happy to go pick this up. What are the chances a trade would be released in smaller dimensions? Is this standard Vertigo size?

Thanks for the further discussion Mike and Funky.

So I read “Ramadan” and grew to appreciate Russell’s sense of design and flow more. Some of those scenes really were amazing! Still, I continue to get stuck on his characters (except for Morpheus whom I think he rendered note-perfect). And the hatching—of which there was much less in “Ramadan” (and he used a thicker line too, which I think helped the art).

Maybe it’s just not something I’m currently able to enjoy. I don’t know. Despite your encouragement, Funky, that I need not feel bad for not getting it, I still sort of do. But anyway, thank you all for trying to help a guy out. I think I’ll give Ring of the Nieblung another shot; maybe I’ll acquire a taste!

And the hatching—of which there was much less in “Ramadan”

Well, that which is representational has the means to refer to it’s own deadness. The Tao says that the way that can be spoken is not the true way, and that a finger pointing at the moon is not the moon and cannot pull the moon down. The Abrahamic religions have a commandment against idolic representation of God. Magritte has his “this is not a pipe” painting. Porn has cheesy acting.

I don’t mind if something beautiful and representational refers to its own deadness, like the cross-hatching in Russel’s art.

Unless you’re Thessaly.

Don’t worry, Dane- I still don’t care for John Romita Jr.’s art on most projects (although I do admit he knocks it out of the park sometimes), and Curt Swan’s art doesn’t do much for me. To each, his own.

FunkyGreenJerusalem

November 6, 2008 at 5:58 pm

maybe I’ll acquire a taste!

It happens.
I never used to think much of Kirby, but now I can’t get enough of looking at his pages.

I know what you mean. It took me forever to see the majesty of Kirby!

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