Points in my Sandman readthrough have sparked questions of a fatigued reader: where is this going? What does this mean? I was struggling by the time I reached The Kindly Ones, and I looked at the volume—by far the longest in the series by page length—only to double down on my exhaustion. Before I slipped listlessly into the Dreaming, I picked up the book and read the first chapter.
“Oh, this is different,” I thought at first. Maybe not different, but elevated. The Kindly Ones promised endings. It promised loose ends tied into neat bows. Stories from the early aughts of the series resurfaced, bringing the huge cast into a cohesive narrative that puts a pin in the world of Sandman as I knew it.
The narrative threads of The Kindly Ones reach far and wide. Friends and foes return to the story with their own grudges and machinations. At the heart of it all lies Morpheus, The Lord Shaper, the Prince Of Dreams. The Furies (though they go by many other names throughout) seek to hold Morpheus accountable for killing his son, Orpheus. Meanwhile, the Furies pull in Hippolyta, who has lost her son Daniel, into their ranks. Morpheus recreates the Corinthian, sending him and the Raven Matthew to recover the child. All along the way, other forces seek to undo the dreaming and the Endless at its helm. The result is a culmination. The Kindly Ones provides a satisfying and punchy end to various Sandman yarns. It feels like a conclusion (and in a way it is, but no spoilers), despite knowing there are two more volumes to follow.
If Sandman is the MCU (it decidedly isn’t, but the analogy is helpful), this is Endgame. This is where Neil Gaiman tugs at the threads he’s left hanging, bringing everything together into an epic and surprising conclusion. The Dream of The Kindly Ones seems reserved, almost aloof. He watches as forces rend his kingdom, doing next to nothing to stop it. He upholds an obligation to the Faerie Nuala, who spent years in his service, knowing full well it would leave the Dreaming vulnerable in his absence.
Many of the series’ most interesting characters return in The Kindly Ones: Cluracan, Nuala, Thessaly, the Corinthian, Lucien, Hippolyta, Delirium, Rose Walker, and many more. It may look like the menu at your local dispensary, but you don’t need sativa to feel like you’re in a wacky wonderland while reading Sandman. The Kindly Ones rivals other graphic novels in size. It’s on par with the length of Watchmen, so the cast earns their screen time. Gaiman delivers poignant ruminations on the nature of these characters, and every moment feels true to what I know of them. Finally, I understand…everything. Well, everything in the Sandman lore that led up to this volume.
The best part? I feel reinvigorated. The remaining two core volumes promise explorations of characters who didn’t appear in The Kindly Ones, and I’m excited to see what they have to offer.
The Kindly Ones unites disparate storylines, offers closure on long-standing Sandman characters, and brings the series to a jaw-dropping climax. If, like me, you read previous issues wondering where things could possibly lead…The Kindly Ones will reveal all.