Sunday, October 20, 2013

Book Review: The Sandman Vol.6, Fables and Reflections

THE SANDMAN VOL. 6, FABLES AND REFLECTIONS: Another episodic volume -- for better or worse

Fables and Reflections features nine remarkable tales, in which the Lord of Dreams is directly or indirectly concerned. They involve iconic characters from the mists of the past to the different pantheons of gods, giving these characters a Sandman spin-off.

It is almost unnecessary to say that these stories are not relevant to the overall story of Sandman. They are more of stand-alone tales. As much as they are similar to the tales of Dream Country -- as stand-alone tales -- they are, at the same time, very different. The stories from Dream Country have much more plot development, and their foundations are much more established to the Sandman mythos. The stories of Fables and Reflections, on the other hand, focus more on historical fiction, which renders them kind of disengaging, because they give the impression that their storylines are not at all significant, or not directly adhere to, the Sandman mythos.

            Three Septembers and a January features Joshua Norton. Thermidor is set in the French Revolution. August features August I of the Empire, and Soft Places, Marco Polo. I find these stories somewhat disengaging because they don’t have much plot development. Thermidor seems to be the only story that has something going on. The others are merely stories inside stories, meaning that they solely focus on dialogue instead of advancing the action. I admit, however, that all of them have their fair share of subtlety. After all, these are Sandman stories we’re talking about. I just felt that they have less magic compared to the other stories.

However, there is one historical fiction story that stands out above the others. It is called Ramadan. Even though it doesn’t have much plot development, like the other historical fiction stories of the volume, it has an air of mystery and magic that drives the story forward. This is a personal favourite.

            But Fables and Reflections also has stories that don’t focus on historical fiction. It has The Hunt, which tells the story of a lone wolf; Orpheus, which introduces the son of Dream; and The Parliament of Rooks, a story about mysteries. The Hunt, even though its storytelling is like that of the historical fiction stories -- a story within a story -- is still engaging because there is actual plot development. As for Orpheus, it is the story in the volume that I enjoyed the most. The reason for this is that it seems to be the most relevant in the overall story of Sandman; and, it features Destruction, the prodigal Endless, for the first time. The Parliament of Rooks is the weakest in this group, but it doesn’t mean that it is bad. The stories contained in this story are also interesting, and there is subtlety in the closing lines.

The characters of this volume are also quite interesting. I mean, who wouldn’t want to see August and Marco Polo have their own Sandman spin-off? Yes, it is interesting to see these familiar characters from history, but as I said earlier, their stories are not strong enough because they don’t have much development. Perhaps the most important part of the characterization is the introduction of Orpheus and Destruction. They seem to be relevant to the grand scheme of things.

Overall, Fables and Reflections is still an enjoyable read. The writing style lives up to the Sandman franchise, though I admit that it is much weaker compared to the other volumes. It becomes even more apparent because A Game of You, the previous volume, is such a strong volume in terms of the writing. But this doesn’t mean that it’s a bad volume. The others are just so great that my expectations have skyrocketed. After all, we’re talking about one of the most successful and influential comic books in history.

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