As good as Neil Gaiman's early issues of The Sandman were when they first appeared in 1988, it was hard to tell that he was in the process of creating a modern myth from the fabric of old ones. By the end of its eight-year run, in an act that would have made Joseph Campbell proud, The Sandman had not only explored the common ground connecting the world's mythological systems, but created one of its own. When the series came to its conclusion, it also seemed to signal the end of the versatile Gaiman's involvement with comics, making this return to the character that made him famous all the more noteworthy. Not so much a comic as an illustrated story, The Dream Hunters revives Morpheus and a few other familiar faces for an adaptation of the Japanese folktale "The Fox, The Monk, And The Mikado Of All Night's Dreaming," a bittersweet love story involving a humble monk and a self-sacrificing fox. Gaiman has said that his interest in Japanese folktales grew out of his adaptation of the script for Hayao Miyazaki's Princess Mononoke, for which he did extensive research. It's little wonder, then, that The Dream Hunters, like Gaiman's past forays into world mythology, combines his own signature touches with an unmistakable respect for the culture he explores. Yoshitaka Amano's illustrations, a seamless combination of the contemporary and the traditional, perfectly complement the graceful prose, itself a similar combination. It's been a pleasure watching Gaiman find success outside of the comics field and away from Sandman, but that doesn't make this return any less pleasurable.

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