For fans and non-fans alike, Netflix’s ‘The Sandman’ is a dream come true

What’s important is that Sturridge captures the competitive aspects of Morpheus that always churn beneath his impassive surface: his haughtiness, his wounded vulnerability; his rigidity, his longing for connection. Also, his brittle anger, his ability to—almost, not quite, but almost—laugh at himself.

The series cleverly reinforces the role of Dream’s librarian, played here by Vivienne Acheampong; we learn that, unlike the comic, her loyalty doesn’t stem solely from blind duty, but is based on her own deeply personal sense of purpose.

Boyd Holbrook’s take on The Corinthian, the roguish, eyeball-biting nightmare whose role also expands heavily from the comic, to good effect, oozes mischievous southern charm. As two of Dream’s immortal brothers, Kirby Howell-Baptiste and Mason Alexander Park evoke iconic elements of their characters, while making the roles distinctly their own. And David Thewliss, who plays an aspiring supervillain, seamlessly transitions between pitiful wretch and malicious manipulator, and is equipped with a motivation that clarifies his character’s goals, which are a bit more confused in the comic.

An older white man with a distinguished mustache stands with a younger black woman wearing round glasses and a red and white suit.  Behind them are bookshelves.  They both look at each other incredulously.
Shall we go to the library?: (L to R) Vivienne Acheampong as Lucienne, Stephen Fry as Gilbert. (Netflix)

The comic distilled

The main thing that will surprise readers familiar with the comic as they watch these 10 episodes unfold is this: The story emerges much more cleanly and clearly, now that it has been freed from the editorial mandates of DC Comics, Gaiman and his collaborators had to sail backwards. on day. Without, for example, having to find a way to include a cameo by members of the Justice League, or pay homage to a shake-up of Hell’s ruling hierarchy taking place in another writer’s comic, or unravel the stories of background of several pre-existing DC characters that had been reduced to dust by a company-wide series of reboots, retcons, and relaunches, the Netflix series simply reveals the trials and triumphs of Dream, confidently merging characters and stories so that everything keep running.

For comic book fans, the changes introduced in the adaptation offer intriguing new variations on now-familiar themes without erasing what we love. In fact, they make those moments when comic book characters leap onto the screen even more satisfying. (Every time I reread the comic I am thrilled when the Fates appear in corporeal form; they are some of Gaiman’s most rivetingly creepy, inscrutable, and darkly funny creations, and the Netflix versions of him do not disappoint.)

The comic only got richer, bolder, and more immersive as it went on, issue after issue, until it reached its deeply satisfying conclusion.

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