The Sandman: Endless Nights by Neil Gaiman
Having just finished the 10-volume epic SANDMAN saga, it’s hard to imagine anything that can top this achievement. In aggregate, it is certainly the most ambitious comic of its time, and having depicted the character arc of Dream, also known as Morpheus and the Sandman, there is isn’t much to add to that. At the same time, since the Endless have lived for the lifetime of the current universe (and perhaps previous iterations), there are an infinite number of side-stories that Gaiman could conceive. So it was inevitable that he would choose to pen some stories that featured each of the Endless — this project itself could be endless, if there’s enough demand from Sandman fans.
Endless Nights has a story about each of the Endless, each penned by different artists whom Gaiman chose to best represent the unique aspects of each Endless sibling and their stories. As such, your impressions of the story will be greatly affected by the artists, and in the case of Despair (“Fifteen Portraits of Despair”) and Delirium (“Going Inside”), the stories are suitably grim and disorienting, respectively. The writing is also fragmented into poetic and cryptic snippets, so their stories are not so much stories as montages. In the case of Delirium, it makes perfect sense that the images and words are chaotic, disturbing, and somewhat crazed. It doesn’t make for easy reading. In the case of Despair, I just couldn’t understand what the story was about, but the artwork is suitably creepy.
My favorite stories were about Death (“Death and Venice”), Desire (“What I’ve Tasted of Desire”), and Destruction (“On the Peninsula”).
The story of Death is a haunting one set on an island off the coast of Venice, where a disillusioned soldier on leave recalls his brief encounter with Death as a child, and then he has his second encounter with her as they crash the idyllic party of some decadent immortals who think themselves immune to death. The artwork by P. Craig Russell is precise, evocative, and pleasing, which is no surprise as he also did the legendary “Ramadan”.
Desire’s tale is definitely the most sexually-charged, a fable of a young woman in early Britain who desires the handsome but playboy son of the village leader. She cuts a deal with Desire, but in typical fashion, the passions that are ignited do not conform to expectations. It reminded me a bit of the Wildlings of the North in A Game of Thrones.
The story about Destruction features my favorite, by Glen Fabry, and is a mysterious story about a remote island in the Mediterranean, where some archaeologists have unearthed some strange objects apparently from the future. The story actually features both Destruction and Delirium, and just like in previous Sandman stories, Destruction is a deeply thoughtful being, nothing like what you might expect, and is always ambivalent about his past life.
The final story about Destiny (“Endless Nights”) is more of a brief coda or book end, and hardly counts, though that is understandable considering that Destiny is a passive figure who knows the life of all people based on the book he carries, but he does not create or affect these life paths but merely observes. It always struck me that his role was fairly pointless, for that reason.