What an odyssey this has been. I ventured into the Dreaming months ago, aiming to finish the Sandman saga before the Netflix adaptation came out. Now, here I am, 11 volumes deep. This will be the last of my Sandman reviews. Though I do intend to read The Dream Hunters and Overture at some point, I’m giving the reviews a much-needed rest and moving back into the realm of novels.
Sandman left me confused, laughing, and in awe at various points throughout the series. Endless Nights carried on the tradition, offering seven stories, one for each of the Endless: Death, Desire, Dream, Despair, Delirium, Destruction, and Destiny. Some of the stories take the form of a “traditional” comics format while others present as microfiction accompanied by art. The entire volume is a stunning and poignant way to put a lid on my months-long Sandman undertaking.
Of the stories within, my favorites are Death, Dream, and Despair. Don‘t get me wrong: each story has its own flair, making it worthy of your time. These three resonated most with me.
Death’s story is of a man with a mysterious past and an uncertain present. During a chance second encounter with Death (years after his first, as a child), the Endless accompanies the man through a mystical gate and into the realm of The Count. The Count has sequestered his island from the grips of time, evading death for more than three hundred years. When Death visits The Count, his charade falls apart. The man accompanying Death drinks it in, then returns to his military unit after the outing, serving Death in his own way.
Dream’s tale takes place in the early days of time itself, during a meeting of celestial beings, gods, Endless, and other powerful entities. Dream brings a date, Killalla of the Glow. With Dream, she witnesses the wonders of these powerful beings in a starry palace built only for this meeting of the minds. But when she meets Sto-Oa, the star around which her home planet orbits, a sparkling romance begins and Dream, dejected, departs.
Despair’s tale is more of a story, and the story is more of a collection of micro-stories. 15 portraits of Despair collects tiny fictions accompanied by gruesome and abstract art. Each diminutive tale tells of a person belonging to despair, and the circumstances that made them so. It’s a harrowing collection of emotive stories predicated on a single feeling: that all is lost. As you might expect, it’s dreary and sad. But it’s beautiful in that very way.
Though I’ve highlighted just three, I loved all of the stories in Endless Nights. Each captures the heart of its subject, reveling in the realms over which these powerful beings rule. That’s what I take away from the Sandman marathon I’ve just completed. Neil Gaiman had a vision, and he brought it to life unfettered, fully intact from his brain to the page. The artists and letterers and myriad collaborators he worked with did their part and did it well. Every inch of Sandman oozes abstraction and emotion in such a way that the entire series feels like a Dream. When you wake from it, you will remember the broad strokes, perhaps the face of a person you knew long ago. But what stays with you most is the impression, the feeling the Dream gave you. Turning the final page of Endless Nights left me with feelings of satisfaction and awe.
I awoke from an 11-volume Dream only to wonder whether it was all real. Of course it was, because it felt real.
Rating: Sandman Volume 11: Endless Nights – 9.0/10