I recently finished Neil Gaiman‘s epic comic book series The Sandman (from the Vertigo imprint of DC Comics). I read it in my favourite way to read the better comic book series: in ‘phonebooks’. By that I mean the serial stories are gathered into bound collections which don’t require Endless waiting. The 75 issues of The Sandman (published between 1989 and 1996) are contained in 4 volumes called “Absolute Sandman”. These are large publications with a old style faux leather cover and a ribbon attached for marking your place in each tome. Very nicely done. And I am actually lucky that my library still had all four since some of them have gone out of print.
Just about the only common thread through this series, beside Morpheus (The Sandman), is Neil Gaiman himself. There are a wide variety of artists, letterers, pencillers, inkers and editors that become attached and then detached to the series but Gaiman manages to keep something, not easily definable, cohesive alive through all 75. The visuals change so much that you’d hardly recognize one from the other but still there is that intangible dream of continuity that keeps you interested and makes me upset about book four being the end. And desire the series to be Endless. Add to that, too, that this isn’t a straightforward story. After reading them all I’m left with questions like who actually masterminded Lord Shaper’s death (there are several candidates). How could Morpheus have been imprisoned in the first place (was he that bad that his siblings wouldn’t come to the rescue: Destiny had to know where he was)? Why did Hob survive that final encounter with Death? What happens to Nuala? And more. Of course, to my way of thinking, being full of questions after a work of art is an excellent state to be in.
Some of the things I find particularly interesting:
- the family of the Dream Lord are Endlessly interesting… they approach their duties so differently
- religion and the Endless: Gaiman includes various religions, gods, myth, comic book heroes, belief systems together with the story lines and with no apparent conflict
- the inhabitants of Morpheus’ realm, The Dreaming, are fascinating with very rich backstories included (like Cain, Abel and Eve, Matthew, Lucien, Merv, the guardians at the door, the Corinthian and Nuala)
- the complexity
- the Land in A Game of You
- the bridge becoming a hall for the Dream Lord’s funeral and wake and then becoming a bridge again
- all the stories told by the refugees from the Reality Storm at the Worlds’ End Inn
- although my first point included her in the collective Death deserves her own due in the end!