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Sandman Mystery Theatre, Vol. 1: The Tarantula

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In this noir detective tale of intrigue, bigotry and incest, millionaire Wesley Dodds takes on the costumed persona of the Sandman to catch a sadistic killer in 1930s New York. Donning a gas mask, fedora, business suit and cape, Dodds goes after the Tarantula, a brutal kidnapper who is mercilessly preying upon the women of high society. But as the Sandman walks through a w In this noir detective tale of intrigue, bigotry and incest, millionaire Wesley Dodds takes on the costumed persona of the Sandman to catch a sadistic killer in 1930s New York. Donning a gas mask, fedora, business suit and cape, Dodds goes after the Tarantula, a brutal kidnapper who is mercilessly preying upon the women of high society. But as the Sandman walks through a world of corruption and deceit, he uncovers the true secret of the murders and their implausible connection to the city's most prominent family. SUGGESTED FOR MATURE READERS.


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In this noir detective tale of intrigue, bigotry and incest, millionaire Wesley Dodds takes on the costumed persona of the Sandman to catch a sadistic killer in 1930s New York. Donning a gas mask, fedora, business suit and cape, Dodds goes after the Tarantula, a brutal kidnapper who is mercilessly preying upon the women of high society. But as the Sandman walks through a w In this noir detective tale of intrigue, bigotry and incest, millionaire Wesley Dodds takes on the costumed persona of the Sandman to catch a sadistic killer in 1930s New York. Donning a gas mask, fedora, business suit and cape, Dodds goes after the Tarantula, a brutal kidnapper who is mercilessly preying upon the women of high society. But as the Sandman walks through a world of corruption and deceit, he uncovers the true secret of the murders and their implausible connection to the city's most prominent family. SUGGESTED FOR MATURE READERS.

30 review for Sandman Mystery Theatre, Vol. 1: The Tarantula

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jeff

    The original Sandman was a Golden Age superhero and a founding member of the Justice Society of America. He ran around in a trench coat and gas mask, using knock out gas to subdue evil doers and get them to reveal their dark secrets. I’m assuming the publishers back then thought this was just a tad bit creepy, so they put him in yellow and purple spandex and gave him a teen-aged boy side kic The original Sandman was a Golden Age superhero and a founding member of the Justice Society of America. He ran around in a trench coat and gas mask, using knock out gas to subdue evil doers and get them to reveal their dark secrets. I’m assuming the publishers back then thought this was just a tad bit creepy, so they put him in yellow and purple spandex and gave him a teen-aged boy side kick named, Sandy, the Golden Boy… The creepiness was now only sub-textual. Heh. During the heyday of DC’s Vertigo line of comics, Matt Wagner revived the title, adding a nice noir-ish, pulpy edge. It seems that Wesley Dodds has spent some time in the orient hanging out in brothels getting baked in opium dens learning the in’s and out’s of making different kinds of gas and honing his overarching sense of justice. Dodds is also plagued by haunting, yet lyrically poetic, dreams that don’t include walking around nude at the local grocery store. I’m guessing, but this is probably a side-effect from the opiates. Anyway, there’s a kidnapping/murder/mobster/torture/corruption/money laundering/incest/jaywalking thing happening in New York City, so Dodds can finally put all his new-found skills to good use. Plus, he leaves origami animals whenever he pays a visit. Neat-o! I’m of two minds on the artwork of Guy Davis. One, he does a great job capturing the times and atmosphere; yet, he’s less than effective in differentiating some of the characters. Was that the detective’s superior or the assistant district attorney or a random, well-dressed hobo? Bottom line: This one’s a re-read from sometime back. I came across the first four volumes of the series in a bargain bin (so expect more reviews, kids). Wagner does a fine job building up the tension and stringing the reader along in what’s sometimes a byzantine plot with one too many characters. There’s enough gray area here for all concerned (including the Sandman) to keep this from drifting into the bland. Dian Belmont, who would later become a partner of sorts, plays less the damsel in distress and more a self-assured resourceful women who doesn’t let the times trap her ambitions and intelligence.

  2. 5 out of 5

    mark monday

    Matt Wagner updates Golden Age Sandman with a conspicuously modern focus on torture and atrocity while keeping the setting enjoyably retro. the time is the 1930s and the milieu is a post-Depression world of high society, gangsters, and a lack of costumed heroes. Enter the Sandman. He has a great, sinister look (trench coat, three-piece suit, and gas mask), a bunch of disturbing dreams, and no powers outside of his pluck and a supply of sleeping gas. he's a wonderfully idiosyncratic hero. the sto Matt Wagner updates Golden Age Sandman with a conspicuously modern focus on torture and atrocity while keeping the setting enjoyably retro. the time is the 1930s and the milieu is a post-Depression world of high society, gangsters, and a lack of costumed heroes. Enter the Sandman. He has a great, sinister look (trench coat, three-piece suit, and gas mask), a bunch of disturbing dreams, and no powers outside of his pluck and a supply of sleeping gas. he's a wonderfully idiosyncratic hero. the story itself is very noir and surprisingly perverse. Guy Davis provides the art and it is perfectly fitting for the story, all spidery lines and fuzzy backdrops. unfortunately, he's terrible with faces and that ends up being a real minus. Wagner is an accomplished and experienced writer and his strengths (and weaknesses) are on display in The Tarantula. I appreciated the focus on women, although he does play that annoying game of pointing out that women are usually victims - while still having women be the victims of his story. put up or shut up, Wagner. and there's always been an off-putting tendency in his work to really embrace the dark side to an almost exploitative, torture-porn degree, and that's certainly present in this story (a lot of torture plus molestation, incest, etc). so much that I found it to be over the top and unnecessary and it almost ruined the story for me. fortunately, the story itself is compelling enough, the hero is great, the art is interesting, and for the most part Wagner is a fine writer... so overall, a good read.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Joseph

    Sparkling dialog and a careful study of human nature mark the first volume of The Sandman Mystery Theatre, starring the WW2 Sandman, Wesley Dodds. Matt Wagner creates a world full of amoralists, and it's the Sandman's duty to correct injustices in order to soothe his tortured soul. The antagonists in this story are not hard to figure out, but the way Wagner brings us to the conclusion is sharp and mesmerizing. This is a thoroughly enjoyable story, as sickening as much of it is. Film n Sparkling dialog and a careful study of human nature mark the first volume of The Sandman Mystery Theatre, starring the WW2 Sandman, Wesley Dodds. Matt Wagner creates a world full of amoralists, and it's the Sandman's duty to correct injustices in order to soothe his tortured soul. The antagonists in this story are not hard to figure out, but the way Wagner brings us to the conclusion is sharp and mesmerizing. This is a thoroughly enjoyable story, as sickening as much of it is. Film noir as Comics noir. Artist Guy Davis has a scratchy, "underground comix" style of illustration. The characters are not attractive, and the perspective is often a bit skewed, but it fits the mood of the book very well.

  4. 4 out of 5

    'kris Pung

    A great noir book where surprisingly the killers identity is revealed pretty early on but it was still enjoyable watching the good guys put all the pieces together.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Raymond Rose

    Sandman Mystery Theater is a bizarre beast. The Sandman it is referring to was a character created in the 1930s, a strange pulp novel character of the newly-created comic books at the time. In the 1980s, Neil Gaiman took the character and updated him... as a god of dreams. He stated that the 30s Sandman was created when Gaiman’s Sandman was imprisoned by faux-magicians. With the success of Gaiman’s Sandman, DC set up to try their hand at the 30s Sandman again. And, oh my God, is it fa Sandman Mystery Theater is a bizarre beast. The Sandman it is referring to was a character created in the 1930s, a strange pulp novel character of the newly-created comic books at the time. In the 1980s, Neil Gaiman took the character and updated him... as a god of dreams. He stated that the 30s Sandman was created when Gaiman’s Sandman was imprisoned by faux-magicians. With the success of Gaiman’s Sandman, DC set up to try their hand at the 30s Sandman again. And, oh my God, is it fantastic. Matt Wagner (of Grendel fame) takes up the tale of Wesley Dodds, a wealthy businessman who starts to have horrible nightmares of crimes and finds that the only way to make them go away is to don a trenchcoat and gas mask and go out to fight crime. Much like the original comic book, this is pure pulp fiction. But it’s wonderful. Where dark but trite plots plagued the former, this incarnation is full of meaty plots, wonderful characterization, and sharp dialogue. And Guy Davis’ artwork is almost anti-comic book in its detailed realism, historically accurate body sizes, and noir cinema-quality framing. Together they make a formidable pair as much as Wesley and his paramour Diane are. And, oh yeah, Diane is a female character who is at once his equal. Not just a romantic interest but a fully-thinking functioning character? That’s crazy. Enter the world of the Golden Age Sandman. This is the crime novel you’ve always wanted to read.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Randolph

    Wesley Dodds is my favorite kind of comics super-hero: he isn't. Zero superpowers, not even the "power to cloud mens' minds" like The Shadow. All he has is a trench-coat, a fedora, a gas gun, and a WWI gas mask. Which means, when he goes to work, just like Super Man or the Green Lantern, he's about as inconspicuous as a cockroach on a wedding cake, only unlike them, no powers, like I said. Don't expect to find Morpheus here except when Mr. Dodds uses his not-so magic gun on you. And death isn't Wesley Dodds is my favorite kind of comics super-hero: he isn't. Zero superpowers, not even the "power to cloud mens' minds" like The Shadow. All he has is a trench-coat, a fedora, a gas gun, and a WWI gas mask. Which means, when he goes to work, just like Super Man or the Green Lantern, he's about as inconspicuous as a cockroach on a wedding cake, only unlike them, no powers, like I said. Don't expect to find Morpheus here except when Mr. Dodds uses his not-so magic gun on you. And death isn't some cute chick either. Its a brutal kick in the throat. Wesley Dodds's Sandman is a resurrection of the real DC Sandman from the 1940s. He likes to leave bits of poetry on pieces of origami. I like that. The artwork is updated old school comic style. The story is pretty much straight 1940s noir which isn't effective all the time, but pretty fun nonetheless. Like all good noir (as opposed to mystery) nobody really cares about the plot but instead the characters, the setting, the ambiance of quiet anxiety and despair, are what matters. There is a lot of incest, bondage, torture, and murder for those who like that sort of thing, so don't leave it around for the kiddies to read.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jayaprakash Satyamurthy

    I'd read a few stray issues of Sandman Mystery Theatre, but this is the first time I've read any of the collected editions. I liked the story with some qualifications: I'm uneasy with the prevalence of depictions of sexualised violence against women in popular fiction, and the first story arc of SMT contains a great deal of this sort of thing. It's clear who the bad guys are, but still, I am not sure it is handled as well as it could be. The other problem is that, at the end of this story arc, t I'd read a few stray issues of Sandman Mystery Theatre, but this is the first time I've read any of the collected editions. I liked the story with some qualifications: I'm uneasy with the prevalence of depictions of sexualised violence against women in popular fiction, and the first story arc of SMT contains a great deal of this sort of thing. It's clear who the bad guys are, but still, I am not sure it is handled as well as it could be. The other problem is that, at the end of this story arc, the character of Wesley Dodds, the Sandman, is still a bit of a cypher. The police were always one step behind him and aside from one essential clue it isn't clear that this mystery could not have been solved without his interference. Dian, who is destined to be his partner, is very well characterised and this makes up for the annoyingly nebulous nature of Dodds. Hopefully future volumes will bring him more into focus. Finally, I really liked the art. It's atmospheric and has personality.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Dan

    I’m glad I found this gem. I never read the golden age Sandman, but had heard about it from Grant Morrison’s book Supergods. The feeling I got was it was a sort of cult character that was similar to Batman, but never broke out. Then there was whatever weird reboot Kirby did decades later that didn’t resemble the golden age character at all. Then we had the now famous Gaiman Sandman reboot as the literal king of dreams. Gaiman did cameo both the golden age version and Kirby’s character I’m glad I found this gem. I never read the golden age Sandman, but had heard about it from Grant Morrison’s book Supergods. The feeling I got was it was a sort of cult character that was similar to Batman, but never broke out. Then there was whatever weird reboot Kirby did decades later that didn’t resemble the golden age character at all. Then we had the now famous Gaiman Sandman reboot as the literal king of dreams. Gaiman did cameo both the golden age version and Kirby’s character early in his Sandman run. Spawned out of that cameo was this title that ran for about 60 issues (give or take). What’s here is a very mature reimagining of the golden age Sandman that’s purely pulp detective stories with a bite of realism. Sandman is set in the world briefly after prohibition ended. It’s a world of gangsters, racism, misogyny, and grisly street crime. Sandman is Wesley Dodds who spends his night chasing down horrifying criminals wearing only a gas mask and using sleeping gas to incapacitate his enemies. It’s a very realistic take on “superhero” genre, if that’s even the right label. If you like pulpy detective stories reimagined for adults, this is a good series to look into.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Frank Hoppe

    I enjoyed the noir-ish feel to it and a female protagonist who was smart, assertive, and not too attractive in the all-too-usual sense. There were some sketchy places where I didn't fully fathom what was being depicted, but the book was a fun ride.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Zardoz

    1930’s Noir with a vigilante detective/wealthy do gooder solving crimes. Sounds pretty tame, but definitely has some dark moments. Not your typical graphic novel. This volume contains three different story arcs that involve torture and sexual abuse of a minor, so not for the kiddies.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Andy Zeigert

    Neil Gaiman's SANDMAN was perfect in almost every way. So why did Vertigo revive the character again? Just to hit closer to the original mark? Who knows. Most likely it was to try to ride the wave. Maybe even trick a few people into thinking they were getting more of Gaiman's SANDMAN. In any case, SANDMAN MYSTERY THEATRE didn't have much going for it. Except that it turned out to be kind of brilliant. Matt Wagner's noir sensibilities shine, and the hand lettering of the boo Neil Gaiman's SANDMAN was perfect in almost every way. So why did Vertigo revive the character again? Just to hit closer to the original mark? Who knows. Most likely it was to try to ride the wave. Maybe even trick a few people into thinking they were getting more of Gaiman's SANDMAN. In any case, SANDMAN MYSTERY THEATRE didn't have much going for it. Except that it turned out to be kind of brilliant. Matt Wagner's noir sensibilities shine, and the hand lettering of the book reminds me how boring today's ubiquitous digital lettering can be. Mostly I picked up this title to see early art from Guy Davis, and I wasn't disappointed. His organic style was great then, even if it has grown into something greater since. This first volume does struggle from a clunky narrative, and more action would probably have brought it up a notch. Still, I'll likely pick up another volume, although Davis doesn't return on art until Vol. 3. I'm just a sucker for pulp noir.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    Originaly bought as single-issues, I have the complete collection. Somehow, Matt Wagner and Guy Davis were the perfect team to bring the original Sandman back. Where most writers would have updated the character to bring him into the 21st century, Matt Wagner goes way back to his original roots set in the 1940s and gives us a bare bones version of the character. This isn't a super-hero, he doesn't jump from rooftops, he's faillable, he's a well-rounded, caring human being, h Originaly bought as single-issues, I have the complete collection. Somehow, Matt Wagner and Guy Davis were the perfect team to bring the original Sandman back. Where most writers would have updated the character to bring him into the 21st century, Matt Wagner goes way back to his original roots set in the 1940s and gives us a bare bones version of the character. This isn't a super-hero, he doesn't jump from rooftops, he's faillable, he's a well-rounded, caring human being, heck he's not even muscle-bound, he could probably even lose a bit of weight. You actually get the impression that he has to make an effort to do the things he does. Add to that the more than believable love interest of Dian and you have the setting for some great stories. These stories should be re-collected into Absolute or Deluxe editions... even if I might be the only one buying them :-)

  13. 5 out of 5

    Michael Anderson

    First story arc of new tales of the Golden Age comic book character, Sandman. This is not Gaiman's Endless Sandman, but a human crime fighter who works in shadow with a truth/knockout gas gun and a World War I gas mask. I bought the first issue of this from the newsstand and, after reading it through back in the day, decided not to continue the series. Now that I've read the entire four-issue story, I still don't find it compelling enough to read other stories in the series. The plot is pedestri First story arc of new tales of the Golden Age comic book character, Sandman. This is not Gaiman's Endless Sandman, but a human crime fighter who works in shadow with a truth/knockout gas gun and a World War I gas mask. I bought the first issue of this from the newsstand and, after reading it through back in the day, decided not to continue the series. Now that I've read the entire four-issue story, I still don't find it compelling enough to read other stories in the series. The plot is pedestrian, and the art is moody but barely adequate to differentiate minor characters from one another. Don't get me wrong. If someone put more Sandman story collections in front of me, I would read them and enjoy them. I just wouldn't go out of my way for them.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Gavin

    Film Noir in comic book form. This feels like it came right out of the late 1930s. The Wesley Dodds Sandman is a character I've been interested in reading more of for some time, and luckily I got my hands on this. This is a great start for a series, taking a character from the past, and letting modern readers get a chance to enjoy him. Luckily Matt Wagner is able to write pulp noir very well, and with all that atmosphere and great backdrop, tell us a story of murder, incest, blackmail and more!< Film Noir in comic book form. This feels like it came right out of the late 1930s. The Wesley Dodds Sandman is a character I've been interested in reading more of for some time, and luckily I got my hands on this. This is a great start for a series, taking a character from the past, and letting modern readers get a chance to enjoy him. Luckily Matt Wagner is able to write pulp noir very well, and with all that atmosphere and great backdrop, tell us a story of murder, incest, blackmail and more! I heartily recommend this to anyone who likes Noir or the Sandman of the 1930s-40s. It's just a good book altogether.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Devowasright

    i had some of these issues once upon a time... such great stories.. a great concept, and reinvention of the golden age sandman..

  16. 4 out of 5

    Linnea Gelland

    A great reading experience for the Noir-lover. I particularly like how dirty and realistic everything feels. Ugly, even. In the best possible way. The Sandman is not a muscle-man with white teeth, but a chubby little guy with enormous glasses (which, by clever design, remind of the gas-mask he wears as his alter ego). The leading lady is not a damsel in distress, or spandex-clad eye candy, but tough, nosy and clever. The crime is a gruesome, disturbing affair, and all there A great reading experience for the Noir-lover. I particularly like how dirty and realistic everything feels. Ugly, even. In the best possible way. The Sandman is not a muscle-man with white teeth, but a chubby little guy with enormous glasses (which, by clever design, remind of the gas-mask he wears as his alter ego). The leading lady is not a damsel in distress, or spandex-clad eye candy, but tough, nosy and clever. The crime is a gruesome, disturbing affair, and all there is to fight it with, is wits and a tank of gas. Even the dialogue is chopped up with pretty realistic um, er, uh's - something that SHOULD be irritating, but somehow manages to work in its favour. Very enjoyable.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Ian

    Like noir, wanna see a gritty late 30s crime drama with a slight dose superheroing and surrealism? Like period NYC? Then this series might be for you. Add a gas mask, some pull no punches grittiness and themes of social consciousness and thats what you've got here. Art is a bit overly sketchy for my taste but it does work with the style and tone. Those in the mood for noir should consider it.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Ryan

    Interesting, well-fleshed out characters in a story that was a bit too dry for my taste. I picked this up because it has some early Guy Davis art. Not too big a fan of the color palette, all of the characters look like either like albinos or dead.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Shannon Lewis

    really on point revisit of a classic character in a story possibly better than any previously attached to the character. Just a gem.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Austin Gaines

    Pretty great noir story. Dark and mean stuff. Great rough scrawled drawings. I’ll definitely check out more volumes.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Brad Abraham

    [This review is more for the entire Sandman Mystery Theatre series than simply Vol. 1. As a freshly minted stay-at-home dad as well as a working writer, my free time available to review books, let alone read them, is somewhat compromised at the moment.] First, some background; Way back in the 1990s I was a college student. I was also a comic book fan. I also didn't have a lot of money to spend on comics so I had to be careful where I spent my cash. I really only read Hellbl [This review is more for the entire Sandman Mystery Theatre series than simply Vol. 1. As a freshly minted stay-at-home dad as well as a working writer, my free time available to review books, let alone read them, is somewhat compromised at the moment.] First, some background; Way back in the 1990s I was a college student. I was also a comic book fan. I also didn't have a lot of money to spend on comics so I had to be careful where I spent my cash. I really only read Hellblazer and Preacher regularly. So I struck a deal with my roommate, also a comic book fan that I would buy certain titles and he'd buy the others. One of his titles was this one, Sandman Mystery Theatre. Flash-forward to 2015. I'm a writer of movies, TV, novels, and, yes, comic books. And I've been re-reading a lot of old comics and TPBs. One is Neil Gaiman's Midnight Days, comprising a selection of his stand-alone comics work - Swamp Thing, Hellblazer ... and the Sandman Mystery Theatre annual. That twigged my re-interest in SMT -- I'd only read the stories once, when my roommate was done with his copy. I never re-read them, but I recall being quite fond of them, being an old-school pulp and serial radio show fan. So I hit up my LCS, brows the stacks, and find SMT Vol. 1 (signed by Matt Wagner no less). Ten clams later it's mine. So ... how does Sandman Mystery Theatre stand up? Pretty well as it happens. Set in the Golden Age DC universe of 1938, as well as Neil Gaiman's Sandman-verse, SMT chronicles the adventures of Wesley Dodds, playboy millionaire - slash detective and his paramour Dian Belmont as they plumb the seedy side of Depression era NYC; a warts-and-all depiction of a sexist, racist era that doesn't shy away from brutal violence and grave injustice. Sort of a "Nick and Nora Charles" meets "Se7en" if that makes sense. Actually that sounds kind of awesome. But I digress. This next bit probably counts as a "trigger warning" -- this is one dark, nasty bit of business and definitely not for the squeamish. Murder, rape, incest, racism, bigotry, homophobia -- all things that would get this book banned from "safe spaces" on college campuses today was part of the fabric in the 1930s. That's part of its appeal; this is a dark and edgy book that hasn't lost those visceral pulpy thrills twenty years on, and captures the flavor of the pulp era that's been sanitized by Hayes Office era censorship. Part of the thrill of re-discovering 1990s Vertigo comics is in discovering how raw and edgy they were, especially coming from a major comics publisher. Each story is comprised of 4 acts, so each book allows you to jump in without so much as a "for those of you just joining us". The overall story is connected however - the growing relationship between Wesley and Dian is the backbone of the Sandman saga, and is actually one of the more realistic relationships portrayed in comics of any era. They meet cute, they fall in love, they fight, they endure a bitter separation and desperate reconciliation, and things get more difficult from there in a storyline late in the series run dealing with abortion. *If there's one criticism I have - aside from some issues where the art isn't quite up to par with Guy Davis' masterful work - is how DC has essentially abandoned Sandman Mystery Theatre to the dustbin of history. There's 8 volumes collected, carrying us up to roughly 52 issues of a 70-issue run. That last volume was published by DC in 2010, with no sign when, if ever, they're going to collect the remaining books. Fortunately my LCS (plural - I live in NYC and there's a lot of comic book stores) helped me snag the final 18 issues in single issue format. So, if you do start reading SMT, be prepared for the story to be left unresolved, until DC collects the remaining issues, or you're able to grab them used, or through ComiXology.* So, with the above caveats, Sandman Mystery Theatre comes highly recommended, both as a series that while never one of CDs or Vertigo's big sellers, used that status to push the envelope of comics storytelling, and remains a standard bearer for a time when a mainstream publisher like DC would still take risks on its less well-known characters.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Nate

    I don't know if I could call this series underrated as the people who do read it tend to thoroughly like or love it but I could probably get away with calling it underexposed. Honestly, if you have an interest in crime, period pieces, noir, or masked vigilantes you could probably get into this--even if you're not a reader of comics/graphic novels. The writing is full of style, moodiness, and original uses of imagery in a very literary way and the art just has this jarring crudeness to it that gi I don't know if I could call this series underrated as the people who do read it tend to thoroughly like or love it but I could probably get away with calling it underexposed. Honestly, if you have an interest in crime, period pieces, noir, or masked vigilantes you could probably get into this--even if you're not a reader of comics/graphic novels. The writing is full of style, moodiness, and original uses of imagery in a very literary way and the art just has this jarring crudeness to it that gives everything an ugly and surreal quality. It's obvious literary tradition is important to Wagner as even this first arc mentions several well-known authors of the time period in a very favorable way. Wesley Dodds returns to New York City in the late 1930s after a long absence to take over his father's business in the wake of his death. This is a great career move for Wesley 'cause he's actually the Sandman; a brilliant gas-mask-wearing vigilante wielding a non-lethal gas gun. Each arc of five or six issues deals with the Sandman solving bizarre and intensely violent crimes while trying to deal with his other life as Dodds and his relationship with his awesome girlfriend Dian. I really liked Dian; it's obvious Wagner put a lot of thought and care into writing a strong, smart and driven woman living in a pretty chauvinistic man's world. It's easy to start liking Wesley right away, as well; he's kind, insightful, flawed, and the sequences portraying his dreams make him one of my favorite protagonists. The weird darkness in his head that compels him to act as the Sandman just makes him that more compelling. While I'm on the topic of weird darkness, this first case is a bizarre and deeply disturbing one. As I hate potentially spoiling stuff for people I hesitate to include details but it focuses on a series of kidnappings that only gets more and more gross and unsettling as the Sandman forces his way to the center of it all. Honestly, this is a scary comic. I consider myself pretty jaded when it comes to this kind of thing and this story was an unnerving experience. It's funny that some people consider the comic/graphic novel medium an immature one, as this series puts that wonderfully bad taste in my mouth in a way that a lot of novels I've read haven't. I really could bounce between four and five stars on any given day. The blend of horror, mystery, masked vigilantism and period piece is executed perfectly by the writer and artist. I'm sure I'll finish the series and this makes me very excited to check out Wagner's other stuff like Grendel, which I'm pretty sure is the series he's most famous for doing. It's a cliche to say stuff like "This is a comic for people who don't read comics" but this is a great example of that; people who are already fans of the medium will probably enjoy this but it also seems like it could rope in some newcomers--as long as they have a strong stomach.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Michael Emond

    I really liked this collection. First and foremost because Matt Wagner wrote a well thought out mystery that had a few twists and turns. As well his narrative style is very unique and compelling. He fades in and out of scenes and characters and keeps us off balance. Reviewers have noted that the adult themes in the book were unexpected but to me it reads perfectly as a typical noir detective story from the 40's. I also liked how the female protagonist, Dian, takes an active role in the story and I really liked this collection. First and foremost because Matt Wagner wrote a well thought out mystery that had a few twists and turns. As well his narrative style is very unique and compelling. He fades in and out of scenes and characters and keeps us off balance. Reviewers have noted that the adult themes in the book were unexpected but to me it reads perfectly as a typical noir detective story from the 40's. I also liked how the female protagonist, Dian, takes an active role in the story and isn't just a helpless sidekick. I know that relationship will grow. A few things kept me from loving the book. The art, while not bad, is off putting. The way Guy Davis draws faces is minimalist to the point of amateurish. What we needed was someone with a bit more style who could work in more blacks to capture the night and shadows, we also needed someone who could draw females so they didn't look so unappealing. Also, Sandman himself is very briefly sketched out as a character and when we see him in action he is usually being caught in the act by a cop or Dian. I didn't get much pf a sense of what Sandman was about or who Wesley Dobbs is as a person. Overall - a fun noir detective story in comic form. Well done.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Joshua

    A really interesting take on a golden age comics character that blends the noir detective and early superhero genres. The theme set up early in the story (decadence and general apathy towards societal ills) is important to consider, and it's interesting to see a character take up more or less non-violent arms against the problem. (Thematically it bears some similarity to The Dark Knight Returns. Other issues, like women's role in society and the pervasiveness and acceptance of racism, are also brought u A really interesting take on a golden age comics character that blends the noir detective and early superhero genres. The theme set up early in the story (decadence and general apathy towards societal ills) is important to consider, and it's interesting to see a character take up more or less non-violent arms against the problem. (Thematically it bears some similarity to The Dark Knight Returns. Other issues, like women's role in society and the pervasiveness and acceptance of racism, are also brought up. The story telling is pretty good, but it doesn't pull any punches; instead of just generally decrying decadent society and moral decline, it head on portrays things like brutal violence, black out drunkenness, incest, and casual racism. That makes it a little hard to read, but it serves to advance the story and themes, and is not just sensational. Pretty good altogether, but if you don't like portrayals of violence, swearing, or all of the other nasty stuff that really does go on, you might want to not read this. Still do consider that there is a lot of terrible stuff in the world, though, and avoiding it is just like trying to have happy dreams instead of helping to make the world a better place.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Ravenhats

    This is my favorite volume of my favorite superhero character. Sandman Mystery theater is a extremely unusual Superhero story that focuses upon multiple human and realistic aspects that are often left out of the genre such as the true human effects of crime, the investigative work, historical and geographical setting, and complex character relationships. Sandman Mystery theater is a period piece placed in the 1930, narrated by Dian the daughter of the district attorney. She meets the eccentric s This is my favorite volume of my favorite superhero character. Sandman Mystery theater is a extremely unusual Superhero story that focuses upon multiple human and realistic aspects that are often left out of the genre such as the true human effects of crime, the investigative work, historical and geographical setting, and complex character relationships. Sandman Mystery theater is a period piece placed in the 1930, narrated by Dian the daughter of the district attorney. She meets the eccentric son of a rich socialite Wesley Doddsn who has just inherited his fathers fortune, unaware of his identity as the pulp hero who is haunted by dreams involving criminals. As the hero the Sandman Dodd's uses his specialized gas gun and detective skills to investigate the recent disappearance of the women of the city, with the help of clues given by Dian who seeks to get into detective work herself. I love the art style presented by Guy Davis who is a fantastic artist, as well as the intelligent writing by Matt Wagner.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Valerie

    Okay, I admit I bought this because I thought it was a Neil Gaiman Sandman spin-off and not a Golden Age Sandman spin-off. I was at my used book store spending money like a crazy person that day. Things fell in the basket. It happens. So while this was not what I was expecting, it was still a neat 40s-style comic with a modern, storyline. It isn't something I would typically read, but an interesting one. It strives to recreate the pre-Batman vigilante hero, and I think it succeeds in Okay, I admit I bought this because I thought it was a Neil Gaiman Sandman spin-off and not a Golden Age Sandman spin-off. I was at my used book store spending money like a crazy person that day. Things fell in the basket. It happens. So while this was not what I was expecting, it was still a neat 40s-style comic with a modern, storyline. It isn't something I would typically read, but an interesting one. It strives to recreate the pre-Batman vigilante hero, and I think it succeeds in this. The art style is not my favorite, but at the very lease it isn't the hypersexualized garbage that way too many superhero comics these days turn to. So for fans of Golden Age comics, this is a neat revival. Just don't go into it looking for Morpheus in the background. The gas mask is all they have in common.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    I just had a nice donation of all the Sandman and Sandman-related collections to my classroom lending library, so I'll be gradually going through the collections I've never had the chance to read before. If this first collection is any indication of the quality of later issues of the series, I can see why Sandman Mystery Theater was such a long-running book. In a lot of ways, SMT was ahead of its' time as a book which took a serious approach to vigilantism and superheroics by rooting I just had a nice donation of all the Sandman and Sandman-related collections to my classroom lending library, so I'll be gradually going through the collections I've never had the chance to read before. If this first collection is any indication of the quality of later issues of the series, I can see why Sandman Mystery Theater was such a long-running book. In a lot of ways, SMT was ahead of its' time as a book which took a serious approach to vigilantism and superheroics by rooting it firmly in the real world. As a mystery, The Tarantula isn't exactly hard to puzzle out, but that's about my only complaint. I loved Guy Davis' rough-but-elegant style. I loved the character of Dian Belmont, who's quite a bit more interesting and fun to follow than the guy who's on the cover to this collection. I'm looking forward to going through the next couple of collections!

  28. 5 out of 5

    Travis

    NIce bit of gritty pulp noir mystery, but despite claiming to be the adventures of the golden age Sandman character, it is so removed it's hard to see this version joining the JSA. Makes me wonder if it wouldn't have worked better if Wanger had just created a new character. A good read, but I couldn't get past the nagging voice that kept thinking 'this isn't 'my' Sandman'. Shame as it is a good pulp mystery series and Wes and Dian are a great couple, but typical of most Ver NIce bit of gritty pulp noir mystery, but despite claiming to be the adventures of the golden age Sandman character, it is so removed it's hard to see this version joining the JSA. Makes me wonder if it wouldn't have worked better if Wanger had just created a new character. A good read, but I couldn't get past the nagging voice that kept thinking 'this isn't 'my' Sandman'. Shame as it is a good pulp mystery series and Wes and Dian are a great couple, but typical of most Vertigo comics that used an established DC hero, they create a version that wouldn't fit well in the DCU, but still claim it is the actual character, but they don't want to have to deal with the rest of the DCU. That wanting to have it both ways attitude always bothered me.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Michael Wells

    This is a great series that it's taken me too long to come by. 1930's pulp noir with a bit of super thrown in. I picked it up because I've been reading Matt Wagner's current work on Madame Xanadu and I've been loving it. So I thought I'd try out some other, earlier work. I'm not disappointed. Sandman Mystery Theatre is smart, stylish and suprisingly mature about human relationships for a comic that sets itself in the pulp world. I'm not in love with the art. I am in love with the writing.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Orrin Grey

    Started trying to read some Sandman Mystery Theatre, finally, though I'm not sure how far I'll get. Not because they're not good; they're pretty great, I'm just not sure how many volumes in I'll get before something else takes up my time. Everyone knows that Matt Wagner is good for this kind of writing, and the art is Guy Davis back before he was doing B.P.R.D. It's a fascinating combo, though Davis's art shines brightest when he's doing weird dream sequences and the like. Looking for Started trying to read some Sandman Mystery Theatre, finally, though I'm not sure how far I'll get. Not because they're not good; they're pretty great, I'm just not sure how many volumes in I'll get before something else takes up my time. Everyone knows that Matt Wagner is good for this kind of writing, and the art is Guy Davis back before he was doing B.P.R.D. It's a fascinating combo, though Davis's art shines brightest when he's doing weird dream sequences and the like. Looking forward to reading more.

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