11 September 2012

Faster than a DC Bullet: The Sandman Spin-Offs, Part XVII: Endless Nights

Comic hardcover, 152 pages
Published 2003
Borrowed from the library
Read August 2012
The Sandman: Endless Nights

Written by: Neil Gaiman
Lettered by: Todd Klein

Neil Gaiman's triumphal return to The Sandman is a series of seven short stories, each one covering a different member of the Endless, those squabbling anthropomorphic personifications who exist beyond gods and time. Each one is drawn by a different artist, and they take place across a whole range of times.

Death: "Death and Venice"
Artist: P. Craig Russell
Colorist/Separator: Lovern Kindzierski

I'd actually read this story before, in The Absolute Death. You bet I love any chance to experience P. Craig Russell's glorious art, and it's as sharp and clean here as ever. He draws Death at her absolute prettiest, and that's how I prefer her. The story has its moments-- many of them, in fact-- but somehow never fully engages me. I'd nearly completely forgotten it until I reread it, except for the dancing paper men, and though that's not super-important, it's not a bad thing to remember, either.

Desire: "What I've tasted of Desire"
Artist: Milo Manara

This is about a Celtic village in the pre-Roman period, or something like that anyway, where a woman gains the power of Desire in order to make a man want her. Unexpected craziness ensues. Like before, there are some very great moments, but I'm not sure what they're all in aid of. Milo Manara's art looks like he's been tracing glamour models: every woman has big pouty lips, has long perfect legs, and is always on the verge of showing her ass if she leans over just a little bit more in that short skirt. It turns "desire" into something crass, which is against the whole idea here.

Dream: "The Heart of a Star"
Artist: Miguelanxo Prado

Though this story is about Dream, the character, it's not really about dreams. If anything it's more about Desire, the character, than "What I've tasted of Desire" was! Set near the beginning of the universe, this story shows Dream bringing his girlfriend Killalla of the Glow to a party with a number of the Endless in attendance. It's supposed to explain the antipathy between Dream and Desire, but it doesn't really. At the beginning of story, Dream has some super-exposition dialogue about how much he loves Desire, then Desire betrays him. We neither see the friendship between them nor understand the motive for betrayal.

There are some awesome ideas here, though, playing with the toys of the DC universe in a way that The Sandman has avoided for a long time, but what works about the story has little to do with Dream or dreams, as we understand neither better at its end.

Despair: "Fifteen Portraits of Despair"
Artist: Barron Storey
Designer: Dave McKean

This is not a comic story, but a series of collages, words overlaid on text, about people in moments of despair. You feel depressed and anguished after reading these things; they're definitely the best and most appropriate stories in the book.

Delirium: "Going Inside"
Artist: Bill Sienkiewicz

A number of delirious people are recruited for a mission by Daniel, the second Dream. Bill Sienkiewicz's art really captures the art and the concept, and though the ending doesn't make any sense, it's hard to imagine how a story about Delirium could. Matthew the Raven puts in a brief appearance, which is always nice. I think by the time this was published he had died in The Dreaming. Oh, and Barnabas is here, too. I like him. This story is clearly a fragment of a larger picture, one we'll probably never see, but it's probably better that way.

Destruction: "On the Peninsula"
Artist: Glenn Fabry

This one-- about an archaeologist digging up artifacts from the future-- is a nice little story. Probably my second-favorite in the book. A simple, personal story, and we get good appearances from Destruction and Delirium, picking up right from the previous story, in fact.

Destiny: "Endless Nights"
Artist: Frank Quitely

The art by Frank Quitely is of course very nice, but it's not a story. More a kind of poem maybe? Destiny: A Chronicle of Deaths Foretold was pretty pointless, so maybe it's for the best that there's no attempt to use Destiny as the key character in a story.

I wanted to like this book more than I did. Most of the art is top-notch, and the imagery and ideas are great. But as I often find with Neil Gaiman, there's a noticeable gap between the story we did get and the story we could have gotten. These things could stand to be in focus a little bit more. Though, I suppose that if they were, he wouldn't be Neil Gaiman anymore.

No comments:

Post a Comment