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October 14th, 2003

Endless Nights, Neil Gaiman and Others.

i came into the sandman late in its run. i remember picking it up because i'd come across something else of gaiman's, though i can't remember the chain of events. it's been a while, at any rate.

but i still like the sandman. some of it more than others, and probably the short graphic novel death: the high cost of living most of all. but needless to say, when a new gaiman written sandman book comes out, i'm a pre made costumer, and so it was that i ordered and waited patiently for my copy of endless nights. i had high expectations: artists included favourites of mine like p. graig russell, milo manara, and bill sienkiewicz, as well as a few others i hadn't heard before. and it wasn't going to be a children's book, because even though everyone else thought coraline was a fantastic and scary little book, i didn't. i thought it was okay, but, well, it is a kids book, and it wasn't exactly what i would call mind bending. (note: whenever i hear an adult saying, 'coraline was such a scary thing and i loved it,' i always think a little poorly of them. i can't help it. i find the idea of adults becoming all wet and gooey over a kids book to be a living version of my own hell.)

but, back to endless nights.



with high expectations, it was inevitable that i would be disappointed, i think. it's not that the stories are, in themselves, bad, because they're not. but they reminded me of the single issues in the sandman series, where the endless were a theme, a concept that held the story together, rather than the focus of the story. at times this works well. the best example of this is the barron storey illustrated 'fifteen portraits of despair'. with fifteen vignettes linked together through the notion of despair, it's easily the most successful and emotional story within the book. dave mckean also designed the page layouts.

but mostly, the stories feel like single issues taken from the larger run. the exception of this is the miguelanxo prado illustrated story 'the heart of a star' in which we are offered visions of delight, a dark death, and dream and desire being friends. it's easily the most interesting of the stories in the book, and i felt that these visions could have been expanded and linked outwards, to create a more cohesive whole. endless nights isn't a cohesive whole, in the way that graphic novels like mr punch or even the sandman: brief lives are. ultimately, this proves to be a weakness within the book as a whole.

what is more, is that when gaiman should have focused upon the endless characters more, as in delirium and destruction's linked stories, he doesn't. he walks around the edges of the story, focusing on the secondary characters, allowing the thematic nature of delirium, or destruction, to be the focus of the pieces. which is a shame, as none of the characters that gaiman presents outside the endless are as interesting as the endless themselves--and what is more, often the new characters presented by gaiman are related so closely to the thematic concerns of the endless, that they are one note characters, focused on death, or desire, or destruction, and so on and so forth.

this is not to say that the book isn't worth buying. the stories are all good--gaiman has reached a stage now where it's a rare day when he presents a dud story. and the art for each is, really, quite suited. it's had to image anyone by glenn fabry illustration 'on the peninsula', and in addition to that, it is easily the finest sequential work i've seen from fabry in years. even frank quitely, more suited to superheroes, finds his place in the final piece of the book, 'endless nights'.

endless nights is, i think, not that accessible to people who haven't read the previous works. there are two dreams, a destruction that isn't part of the endless, an early despair, an unhappy death, and a delight instead of a delirium. they all appear, outside a brief introduction from gaiman, without much explanation as to their place in the huge tapestry of the work--and indeed, perhaps that is its success and failure, because endless nights, ultimately, is a continuation of the sandman: seven new issues that follow upon the first seventy five or so.

Quote.

"I took a speed-reading course and read War and Peace in twenty minutes. It involves Russia."

Woody Allen