By Neil Gaiman and various artists
[This is an old piece of writing that I discovered, which I thought should be included in my exhaustive compilation of posts about things I have read/viewed/played.]
Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series was a significant touchstone in my comic book reading life, and remains a favourite after all these years. However, it was with a certain trepidation that I decide to re-visit the world Gaiman created in this book. The idea behind the book is Gaiman telling a story of each of The Endless with a different artist. The only trouble with the idea is that they are only glimpses of the Sandman world, which make you long for more Sandman stories.
The story about Death is beautifully illustrated by P Craig Russell, but it feels rather slight for what would hoped to be an important story. The tale about Desire is a nice story, but nothing spectacular, this time with gorgeous art by Milo Manara, who draws the best Desire ever. The most enjoyable story is the Dream chapter, drawn by Miguelanxo Prado, showing us the history of Dream’s first love, Delight before she became Delirium, as well as including Death, Destiny, Destruction and Despair, and why Desire and Dream are no longer friends. For the Sandman fan, this is the reason to buy the book, because it feels vital to the canon and explains interesting aspects of the back story.
The story concerning Despair left me in despair, due to the ugly abstract art from Barron Storey; it felt like nonsense to me, even after rereading it. The Delirium story has Bill Sienkiewicz providing the art for a slender narrative, but it’s Sienkiewicz drawing Delirium, which is a match made in heaven. Glenn Fabry brings his coloured artwork (which I always think is not as good as his black and white work from the 2000 AD days, but that might be just me) to an odd segment about Destruction. I had hoped for more from the only story dedicated to the most mysterious of the Endless, but the tale felt more like it was about the idea of Destruction rather than Destruction himself, and I was left unsatisfied by it. The final chapter is a melancholy short tale about Destiny, gorgeously illustrated by Frank Quitely in a beautiful fairy tale style, and is the perfect ending to the book as it involves how the Endless work within the universe.
On reflection, I’m conflicted about the book. There is some real beauty in it, with some exquisite art and Gaiman’s always poetic writing, and it’s more Sandman, which is what the fans have been clamouring for since the series ended. On the other hand, it felt insubstantial – the only chapter that felt like it had a reason to exist was the Dream story, and the others seemed more like experiments in storytelling rather than actual stories. I read this via the library, which seems particularly appropriate for a Sandman story, but I haven’t felt the urge to purchase it to add to my collection. Perhaps it should just stay as a half-remembered dream of a Gaiman story, which probably works for the best.