Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Sandman: Endless Nights

Written by Neil Gaiman
Art by P. Craig Russell, Milo Manara, Miguelanxo Prado, Barron Storey, Bill Sienkiewicz, Glenn Fabry, and Frank Quitely

Back when it was coming out each month, like most readers who were looking for more from their 90s comics than shoulder pads and leg pouches, Sandman was one of my favourite titles.  In a lot of ways, it was Gaiman's series, alongside books like Starman and Sandman Mystery Theatre that kept me going through what I've come to recognize as comics' Dark Ages.  When the series ended, I felt like Gaiman had brought things to a nice, complete close.  A few years later, when the Endless Nights anthology was announced, I felt no need to dive back into his world (kind of like how I feel about Before Watchmen now).  I wasn't sure that there was any need to return to these characters, as anything new that would be said about them would be ancillary to Gaiman's original design and vision.

And then, I completely forgot that this project ever existed, until I saw a copy at a used book store a month or so ago.

While my original assessment, that the book wouldn't add anything necessary to the story of Dream or his siblings held true, it was really very nice to revisit some of these old friends, and to reminisce about how much this comic meant to me at a certain point in my life.

The book holds seven stories, one for each of the Endless.  It opens on a Death story, drawn by P. Craig Russell.  Like most people who read Sandman for the first time in their late teens, I always had a bit of a crush on Death, as she was shown in this series, so it was nice to see her again, in a story that is kind of predictable, but beautiful (thanks to Russell).

The best story in this volume is the Dream one (illustrated by Miguelanxo Prado).  It is set a very long time ago, and does more than any other issue of the series to remind us that the Endless exist in the DC Universe (at least, pre-New 52 they did).  Dream takes a mortal lover with him to a meeting of stars, who have taken human form.  We meet Rao, and the star of Oa, as well as our own sun, although he is still very young.  The story is full of interesting little Easter eggs for long-time readers, but also does a good job of reminding us what a bit of a tool Dream is.

This whole book has incredible art in it, from Bill Sienkiewicz's trippy Delirium story, to Barron Storey's haunting portraits of Despair.  Glenn Fabry's never been a favourite artist of mine, but his Destruction story works quite well, as does Milo Manara's story about Desire (who better?).  Frank Quitely's work on the Destiny story is beautiful, but the tale itself is just an epilogue to the book that isn't necessary at all.  I guess it's hard to write about a character like Destiny.

Anyway, I enjoyed this book quite a bit, and am now very tempted to re-read the entire Sandman series; something I've always wanted to do, but haven't been able to invest the time in.  I'm curious to see how they stand up now.

No comments: