24 October 2010

Faster than a DC Bullet: The Sandman, Part IV: The Absolute Sandman, Volume Four

Comic hardcover, 608 pages
Published 2008 (contents: 1993-96)

Borrowed from the library
Read October 2010
The Absolute Sandman, Volume Four

Writer: Neil Gaiman
Artists: Marc Hempel, Michael Zulli, D'Israeli, Richard Case, Charles Vess, Teddy Kristiansen, John J Muth, Kevin Nowlan, Dean Ormston, Glyn Dillon
Colorists: Daniel Vozzo, John J Muth
Letterers: Todd Klein, Kevin Nowlan

With this volume, The Sandman storyline hurtles to its inevitable conclusion. I had this spoiled for me ages ago, but it still totally works, and besides, Volume Three has a sequence that gives the game away anyway. The story is slow to start, but it really comes together as it goes, and as we see people throughout the universe of the series react to what is about to happen to Dream-- or what Dream is about to do? The final storyline makes a lot of sense of Dream's inactivity throughout the series (though I don't know that it excuses it as good storytelling), and I was happy to see Lyta Hall, wife of the 1980s Sandman, make a return. As the series' longest storyline yet, The Kindly Ones really works: I was riveted as I read, wanting to know what was going to happen next even thought I knew. There were lots of great little moments, especially the last stand of Merv Pumpkinhead during the assault on the Dreaming, and Cain's grief at what has happened to Abel. Marc Hempel has a different pencilling style from most of the other artists on the series, which would have been fine-- except that it often made it difficult to recognize brief appearances by preestablished characters. Though not quite as good as Brief Lives in Volume Three, The Kindly Ones provides an excellent finale to the series.

I need to say a few words about Matthew the Raven. Though Merv makes me laugh the most, Matthew is my favorite of the characters to inhabit the Dreaming, a mortal man who died and was offered a chance to live on in dreams as Dream's raven. He's your "average guy" amongst the far-fetched characters of the Dreaming, a little baffled but often able to cut through the crap. He got some good material in Volume Three, and he shines here in Volume Four, providing a human anchor for the massive events unfolding. The climax of the The Kindly Ones wouldn't be nearly as powerful without him, and he's what makes the last storyline in the book, The Wake, work as well as it does, as he struggles to come to terms with what happened. A great supporting character.

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