12 September 2012

Faster than a DC Bullet: The Sandman Spin-Offs, Part XVIII: Death: At Death's Door

Comic hardcover, 192 pages
Published 2003
Borrowed from the library
Read August 2012
Death: At Death's Door
by Jill Thompson

This is the third volume in the Death series (though it's labeled #1 for some reason), and it sees Jill Thompson taking over for Neil Gaiman, Chris Bachalo, and Mark Buckingham on the series. It's also done in "manga" format; it's digest sized and in black and white. It also jumps backwards: while the previous volumes told stories of Death interacting with Sandman characters after their appearances in The Sandman, this retells a Sandman story (Season of Mists in The Absolute Sandman, Volume Two) from Death's perspective.

Sort of. It opens the same ways as Season of Mists, and it soon gets to the same point, where Lucifer opens the gates of Hell, releasing all its souls back to the mortal world. Only they all invade Death's apartment, and with the help of her sisters Delirium and Despair, she has to throw the ultimate party to keep them all distracted!

Sounds fun, right? These bits are fun. This Death isn't Gaiman's all-knowing pleasant sage, but an exasperated fashionable girl-- she's perhaps more human here than she's been in other of her own stories. It's especially nice to see Despair to get to do some stuff, since she's usually one of the least-focused-on Endless. She even gets a quasi-romance here!

But large portions of the book are given over to retelling Season of Mists. And not just from Death's perspective, but from Dream's. Why? I remember the story, and this adds nothing new. It seems to verge on a 50/50 split. Even the scene where Dream is told that the Justice Society of America is trapped in a simulation of Ragnarok is in here, and that was irrelevant to the original comic, much less this one. The constant cutting to the Dreaming really dampened the potential of the book, and it kept the party plot repetitive and linear. (At least I am giving Thompson the benefit of the doubt, and assuming that with more space she could have done more!) At Death's Door is a nice showcase for Thompson's cute art, but it could be more than that.

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