When it comes to nightmares, Nightmare Country may be as weird as they come. James Tynion IV and Lisandro Estherren kick off a brand new Sandman Universe series and give the creepiest character from Neil Gaiman’s series, Corinthian, the central focus. Fans of The Sandman have likely been greatly anticipating this, but modern horror fans of the comics persuasion were also likely anticipating it since Tynion has become a horror master.
It has been eight months since a Sandman Universe series was published in comic book shops, but the wait is over and fans of the original series will not be disappointed. In fact, I’d argue the pace, plotting, and tone of this series is pitched perfectly to Sandman comics of the ’90s.
That might be a turnoff for some, as the slower, more confusing nature of a scene can be a bit of a bear. That said, if you let this story wash over you, you’ll likely find something here that’ll stick in your brain and wake you up late at night.
This issue opens on a New York rooftop at sunset. We meet Flynn, who is discussing dreams and soon delves into a reoccurring dream she had in high school. This leads down a rabbit hole much like dreams we all have in a weird and twisty way. It’s relatable but is permeated by a moment of shock as Flynn sees something amongst the partiers.
This leads to another character who also dreams and sees terrible things. The theme of dreams and nightmares blending with reality is touched here and in some ways that’s kind of the point. Something has come untethered and it’s shockingly disturbing to discover these worlds colliding.
In a key scene, drawn by Yanick Paquette with colors by Nathan Fairbairn, we get to see Corinthian in the Dreaming. The clean art style sticks out quite a bit, giving it a pleasing look and feel that leads to some rather disturbing images. Almost like a shocking turn in a dream, the story delivers these moments under Paquette’s expert lines in a way that’ll pop into your memory after you put this book down.
Closing out the book is a scene with the characters Mr. Agony and Mr. Ecstasy who are masterfully drawn by Estherren. The style is not unlike Hunter S. Thompson’s drawings with blood splatter and an unsettling display of perspective on these characters. They’re quite strange and mad as they explain how the real world is what we should chase. Not dreams.
It’s hard to gauge if this first issue is too vague and unclear, or just the right amount. I finished this story not quite sure where it goes from here, or how these characters will come together, but I certainly got a taste of each monstrosity and a sense of who the humans of this story are. That lack of clarity, however frustrating it can feel, is a kind of strength and will likely fade away when this is collected.
Estherren’s style is painterly, yet it’s also colored by Patricio Delpeche. It gives the book a dreamlike quality, with good textures and a hand-painted and drawn feel. The style is very indie, in a good way, and it lends an artistic distinction from most comics on the shelves.
The Sandman Universe: Nightmare Country is delectably weird and haunting. It will stick with you, for better or worse if you value your sleep!
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