What an incredible treat it is to be able to hear characters, once confined only to the page, come to life – even if only in audio form. Our imagination is one thing, and at times quite dangerous, as our expectations for those same characters to align with our imagery go up exponentially. If you match the wrong voice to a favorite character, consider your book canceled. Just kidding. But let’s be real, pairing the wrong voice to a character has the potential to destroy the imagined imagery inside the reader’s head.
And if those characters belong to an incredible series of comics / graphic novels such as DC Comics’ The Sandman by bestselling author Neil Gaiman – globally known for his books such as American Gods and Norse Mythology – the treat is a glorious symphony to the ears. Created by Audible, the series truly comes alive through A-list voices such as James McAvoy, Kat Dennings, Michael Sheen, Taron Egerton, Riz Ahmed, and Andy Serkis. According to Gaiman – who also narrates – they were very careful in casting all the characters and I have to say, did an excellent job.
Like the original comics, the first instalment begins with Dream (James McAvoy), or Lord Morpheus, after he’s mistakenly imprisoned by an occultist bent on capturing his sibling, Death (Kat Dennings). After being trapped for 70 years, Dream is released as the order’s leadership has died off and the following has dissipated. While he was held captive, the world has turned to chaos as his objects and symbols of power have been distributed by meddling people looking to make a quick buck. Now, he must roam the universe to collect them and regain his full power once more.
We follow Dream as he finds his objects, coming across other unique characters from DC Comics’ universe: John Constantine, Martian Manhunter, Dr. Destiny, with other side mentions from the Justice League of America. Constantine takes Dream to a dilapidated house to locate his bag of sand, where they stumble upon John’s ex-girlfriend caught up in a dream so vivid she’s unable to take care of herself in any way. And in Hell, Dream must fight a demon in an unusual game of mind chess to win back his coveted helmet.
Though Dream is the focus of the first arc in the series, we also get a few side stories that have him playing a minor role. These I didn’t enjoy as much but I understand why they were included as they provide him with a more well-rounded personality. In others, such as the story arc including Unity who has been asleep for many years, even bearing a child during her sleep, which resulted in her grandchild being a vortex that has to be destroyed. It all plays into Dream’s inner conflict of whether someone should live or die.
Gaiman is a genius storyteller – there’s no doubt about that. His graphic novels are notoriously dense, yet often hold such wonder that you can’t help but dig deeper into his universe. While the content is undoubtedly for adults, Audible’s version of The Sandman is absolutely brilliant, bringing every character to life with vivacity. McAvoy does an excellent job voicing Dream, matching the god-like yet slightly weary character who has been in control of dreams and sleep for eons. And it’s true; without Dream to maintain the balance in the universe, we’d all descend into utter madness.