PUBLISHER: AUDIBLE | RELEASE DATE: JULY 15TH
Before big screen comic book adaptations were good, there was Dirk Maggs. Well before Sam Raimi's Spider-Man burst onto the scene and revolutionised comic book movies forever, fans had to make do with Maggs' astonishingly faithful radio productions of Judge Dredd: The Day the Law Died, Superman: Doomsday and Batman: Knightfall. Lavishly produced, well-acted and bursting with special effects, these were the blockbusters of audio dramas.
It's only fitting, then, that Maggs should be the one to bring us The Sandman; the first adaptation of Neil Gaiman's classic series, in any medium (30 years after he was first approached with the idea!). He does so with a host of A-list names and talent in tow. This series covers the events of Preludes and Nocturnes, The Doll's House and Dream Country – one issue of each per 'episode'.
Who better to serve as narrator than Gaiman himself? The Sandman is more reliant on narration than previous Maggs adaptations, but it fits the story well, and Gaiman's gravelly, calming tones are soothing and unobtrusive. It's enough to put one to sleep; in which case, you can be assured of some interesting dreams.
The rest of the cast is enough to make most movie blockbusters turn green with envy – Andy Serkis as Matthew the Raven, Michael Sheen as Lucifer, Kat Dennings as Death, Riz Ahmed as the Corinthian. Taron Edgerton plays John Constantine – and if we don't get him in a subsequent TV or movie adaptation, the world will be much worse off (with apologies to Matt Ryan). This isn't even mentioning Joanna Lumley, Miriam Margoyles (the one-time Annie Wilkes of Maggs' wonderful Misery adaptation), Reginald D. Hunter, Matt Horne and many, many more. And, of course, there's James McAvoy as Dream of the Endless.
How does one give a voice to a character who speaks in pitch-black speech bubbles; an unknowable, Endless entity? It's a tough job, and McAvoy doesn't always pull it off... sounding too human in spite of his best efforts. He sells Dream's vulnerability well, but not his inhuman unknowability. But it's hard to imagine anyone doing a better job and, besides, Dream is barely even in many of the stories. The first few books in the series are ripe with A-list DC cameos, and this adaptation keeps them all intact, from the show-stealing Constantine to Martian Manhunter and Mister Miracle. No live-action retelling could hope to do The Sandman justice, so this adaptation is a treat to those who just want the stories, unaltered, in their original form.
The Sandman is almost word-for-word faithful to its source material (read along at home, guys!), effectively capturing the tone and spirit of Gaiman's books in a way many would have thought impossible. From the pulpy horror stories of Preludes and Nocturnes to the esoteric nightmares of The Doll's House, and the whimsical fantasy of Dream Country, this is Neil Gaiman's Sandman to its core. It's the adaptation that fans have always dreamed of.