I've blogged before about my love of Sandman Mystery Theater...as well as my despair as my run was destroyed in the move back to Chicago. I've been quite happy with DC's decision to release the trades once a year - in face, doubly happy that they're releasing two arcs in one paperback.
At the time, Matt Wagner and Steven T. Seagle were probably getting a lot of mail encouraging them to give several characters the 'Vertigo' treatment...and it wasn't until issue 29 (reprinted in the Volume 6 trade) that they began to do so by making a....unique choice.
In the "Hourman"arc, Rex Tyler shows the signs and behaviors of addiction foreshadowed by Roy Thomas in his All-Star Squadron run, but he also takes a page from James Robinson's , but Wagner and Seagle also do a slightly pulpy take on ideas that James Robinson suggested in JSA: The Golden Age- that Tyler's just as addicted to the adventure as he is to Miraclo, the drug that gives him his powers. And Wagner/Seagle take time to make an extremely hilarious commentary on "Golden Age" costumes - both Sandman in the purple-and-gold, and Hourman in his costume - especially drawn by Guy Davis - have to be seen to be believed.
(The only weak arc in Vol 6 is "The Python" - it's a little poorly written, and Warren Fleece's art....just doesn't work)
But it's volume 7s "The Mist" that helps forward the idea of a "Vertigo" Golden Age. Published at the same time (I think) that Robinson was writing the Starman Sand and Stars arc, "The Mist" serves as an "origin" story for the Golden age villain as well as a meeting of both Wesley Dodds and Ted Knight. A story of the misuses of science...it's also a pretty strong take on reinventing characters. (Knight's continual hitting on Dodds' companion Dian Belmont - priceless). The companion arc, "The Phantom of the Fair" also contains a brief cameo by Jim Corrigan, as well as another encounter with the Crimson Avenger. These aren't played up for laughs (when CA meets Sandman, he basically grows "Stay off my turf").
In short, these are well-written stories that are very adult in tone, dealing with themes such as brutality, body image, homosexuality, science gone awry, police corruption...well, you get the idea. If you're the kind of person who would, say, take their children to see Watchmen, well, that's sad...and this book isn't for you.
Sandman Mystery Theater is one of those books that deserve a second chance in trade. Please get your hands on both volumes 6 and 7 for an "alternative" look at the Justice Society...and then, buy the rest. You'll thank me later.