Land of Dreams

Sandman: The Dream Hunters: adapted by P. Craig Russell from a novella by Neil Gaiman and Yoshiaka Amano (2009): Writer-artist Russell adapted Neil Gaiman’s illustrated 1999 Sandman novella into comic-book form to help celebrate the 20th anniversary of the first issue of Gaiman’s hyper-popular Sandman series. The novella itself was released to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Sandman. What will the 30th anniversary bring?

Told as if it were an old Japanese folk story (it isn’t, though Gaiman’s afterword to the 1999 novella convinced a lot of people, including Russell, that it was), The Dream Hunters chronicles the adventures of a female fox, a young monk, and a magician searching for a cure for his chronic fear. It’s set in a legendary Japan of animal spirits, demons, and witches. The Sandman himself — Dream, or Morpheus — plays a supporting role, as he periodically did in his own comic-book series. The narrative focus is squarely upon the fox and the monk.

Russell’s art is pleasingly legendary in its own way, as sometimes cartoony and sometimes nightmarish demons rub shoulders with realistically rendered humans, a slightly anthropomorphic fox, and some truly horrible witches. Or are they oracles? Russell’s faces are always expressive, that expressiveness the product of just a few lines properly placed.

The colouring by Lovern Kindzierski apparently tries to replicate the palette available to Japanese print-makers of a certain era. It’s a lovely, muted wash of pastels and faded primary colours. Much of the wording remains Gaiman’s, but Russell has done a fine job of selecting what to keep in language and what to render as art. All in all, this is a marvelous addition to the Sandman library, and worth owning whether or not one already has the novella. Highly recommended.

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