Where is Psyren? What IS Psyren? And what is Psyren's connection to our own troubled world?
Those are the questions that litter "Psyren Volume 1," oneWhere is Psyren? What IS Psyren? And what is Psyren's connection to our own troubled world?
Those are the questions that litter "Psyren Volume 1," one of the few manga I was eagerly awaiting even before it arrived on American shores. It's hard to see why this series has been completely overshadowed by lesser manga/anime series -- it has a deliciously nightmarish world where ordinary people must fight to survive, a mysterious figure pulling the strings, and a rough-diamond hero.
Strange things are happening in Yoshina Ageha's life: Masked apparitions, ringing phones, and his old friend Amamiya pleading "Save me!"... just before she goes missing. In fact, a lot of people are going missing, and the only clue Ageha has is a calling card with "Psyren" printed on it. But using the card only attracts more trouble -- and Ageha ends up being whisked into a strange desert world with ruined buildings.
And after monstrous creatures kill most of the people there, Ageha joins forces with an exhausted Amamiya and a very tall, tough teenager named Asaga. Their only hope for survival is to find the gate leading out of Psyren and back to their own world. But when Ageha learns what Psyren truly is, he realizes that there may be no escape for anyone...
"Psyren Volume 1" is one of the best introductions to a manga series that I have ever seen. It introduces the first three main characters, it's got plenty of wall-smashing action, and author Toshiaki Iwashiro tosses a KILLER twist into one of the chapters. I won't reveal what it is, but it adds an entirely new spin on a seemingly ordinary "through the looking glass" tale.
It's also a very lean, fast-moving story, with compact fight scenes that feel grittier and more realistic than most shonen series. There are a few bleakly humorous moments (Amamiya getting all weird and smiley), but Iwashiro's skill is in how passionately he evokes deeper emotions. There's a nightmarish, haunting quality to Psyren itself, and the death of a kid Ageha tried to save is all the sadder because of his words before he turns to ash and blows away.
Oh, and the monsters? Friggin' creepy, especially the grinning helmeted one that almost looks human, but not quite. Even the mysterious "Nemesis Q" is kind of eerie.
Ageha himself is a really likable character. He's brash, temperamental and prone to fisticuffs -- he even SELLS fights on behalf of other students! -- yet has a heart of gold. He doesn't quite stand out from the pack of spiky-haired shonen heroes, but he's getting there. Asaga is mostly a dark horse at the moment, but Amamiya seems to be a new twist on the action girl -- she's bespectacled and studious, but also a sword-swinging monster-slayer.
"Psyren Volume 1" is a solid kickoff to one of manga's more underrated series. If you like "Bleach" but wish the fight scenes weren't so prolonged, then this might be your cup of tea. ...more
One of the most brilliant things that Neil Gaiman ever produced was the Endless, a ruling family of embodied forces -- Dream, Despair, Desire, DeliriuOne of the most brilliant things that Neil Gaiman ever produced was the Endless, a ruling family of embodied forces -- Dream, Despair, Desire, Delirium, Destruction, Destiny and Death.
But have you ever imagined what they would look like as chibi figures?
Me neither. But apparently Jill Thomas has, which resulted in charmingly oddball picture books aimed at children, starring teeny pumpkin-headed versions of the Endless we know and love (or, in some cases, hate). Obviously "The Little Endless Storybook" is a light marshmallow puff compared to Gaiman's darker, more mature stories, but it's still very cute.
The story focuses on Barnabas, a little dog who takes care of the flighty, flaky Delirium in her psychedelic realm. But when he leaves her alone for a few minutes, Delirium vanishes -- and Barnabas is unable to find his charge. Even worse, a mysterious Thing is following him wherever he goes.
So he decides to ask Delirium's various siblings if they know where she is, and finds himself on a quest through the various realms of the Endless -- the weird world of Dream, the squishy red domain of Desire, the grey mirrored realm of Despair, the hilltop of Destruction, the mazed garden of Destiny, and Death's very pink living room. Will he find his acid-haired charge? And why do the Endless keep giving him charms?
One thing that does confuse me a little is who "The Little Endless Storybook" is aimed at. Jill Thompson's art and writing are clearly aimed at children... but those children will probably not have read the Sandman books or heard of the Endless before.
Quibbles aside, Thompson's story is really quite charming -- her artwork is bright and colorful, depicting the Endless as little punkin-headed chibis with big eyes and little stumpy limbs. Each one is easily identifiable (Desire looks like a polished K.D. Lang, Death wears a giant ankh and has spiky black hair, Dream has smudges for eyes and a giant black robe), and she manages to include them all in Barnabas' quest.
Barnabas is a rather cute dog character, with the usual preoccupations that a dog has (including keeping an eye on Delirium). And Thompson weaves together his quest with the Thing following him in a clever and logical manner, especially when his quest is finally over.
"The Little Endless Storybook" is a charming kids' story, full of bright glimpses of the Endless chibis and their wildly different realms. A fun item for little kids and Sandman collectors. ...more
For the record: I don't like "Twilight." At all. But I decided to give "Twilight: The Graphic Novel, Volume 1" a fair shot at impressing me, especiallFor the record: I don't like "Twilight." At all. But I decided to give "Twilight: The Graphic Novel, Volume 1" a fair shot at impressing me, especially since it's rendered into manhwa/manga-style artwork and a pared-down narrative. The artwork is sumptuous, elegant and all-around lovely, but the story is dragged down by the rather stuffy internal monologue.
Everybody knows the drill -- a girl from Phoenix named Bella Swan "exiles" herself to the rainy overcast town of Forks, so she can live with her dad. When she isn't moping, she attends the local school and is struck by the beautiful, aloof Cullen family (and particularly with the standoffish Edward, who seems to be bipolar). He also has superhuman speed and strength, as Bella discovers when he saves her from a runaway van.
In case anybody needs to be told, Eddiekins is a vampire, albeit one who doesn't adhere to any of the traditional vampirey rules... except sucking blood. And despite the danger to her person, Bella develops a Phoenix-sized crush on him despite him constantly insisting that he's ohsoverydangerous.
It's a given that any rabid fans of "Twilight" will gobble down the graphic novel adaptation of the first book's first half. As for everyone else? Well, there are still spurts of rather pompous, un-teen-girlish narrative ("I was unconditionally and irrevocably in love with him") and Bella still whines way too much about mundane stuff ("You could have saved yourself all this regret for not just letting that stupid van squish me!").
Fortunately, Young Kim did a pretty decent job translating the novel into comic book form, and I ended up enjoying her streamlined, sped-up version of the story. It's heavy on atmosphere and light on fluff (such as "Bella being randomly clumsy" or "Bella being chased by every boy in school"), with especial emphasis on the dreamlike landscapes, Indian legends and secretive conversations.
And Kim's artwork is simply gorgeous. Her style is a semi-realistic manga/manhwa style, full of delicate strokes, light shadows and smooth lines. Lots of flowing hair, vivid eyes and even some lightly colored scenes when the story demands it (such as when Bella faints at the smell of blood). Additionally, she does succeed in making the Cullens look very lovely and ethereal, yet also very sinister.
There are, however, some scenes that just don't work. The infamous "sparkling in the sun" scene ends up looking ridiculous -- Edward looks like he's covered in fish scales, not diamond sparkleskin.
"Twilight: The Graphic Novel Volume 1" is a decent graphic novel in its own right, and Young Kim's elegant artwork distracts from some of the story's flaws. Worth reading if you're enamored with the book, or really like beautifully-drawn manhwa/manga. ...more
It's pretty much a given that if you're not Amish or in a coma, you've probably heard of the Twilight series, its author, and the three lead actors.
IIt's pretty much a given that if you're not Amish or in a coma, you've probably heard of the Twilight series, its author, and the three lead actors.
It's also a given that anything related to the "Twilight" series or its stars is going to sell insanely well, even if it's a piece of garbage. And unfortunately, "Fame: Twilight" IS a piece of garbage -- an omnibus of clumsy graphic novels that manage to be both surreal and boring, with wretched illustrations and absurdly excessive praise.
The comic books compiled here are about Stephenie Meyer, Kristen Stewart, Rob Pattinson and Taylor Lautner -- each one has a brief biography, a list of previous accomplishments (if any), random factoids about them, and (most prominently) their involvement in the vampire romance series and subsequent fame.
Since this is Bluewater Press -- who brought us as comics about Sarah Palin and Michelle Obama -- you pretty much know how good this comic book is. It's a blatant cash-in, with "quality" ranking somewhere around tenth place. Most of each comic book is a mass of pasted-together quotations from various interviews, and mundane facts that only the most obsessed fans care about (Stewart plays guitar!).
These are threaded on a slow-moving, clunky narrative which tries to be breathlessly melodramatic ("Stephenie was 21 when she married Christian... also known as PANCHO"). The actual facts are pretty generic, but tarted up with really bad prose ("... his stunning, marblesque features and an ability to sparkle" -- marblesque?).
And every single one engages in wild hyperbole to some degree, insisting that Kristin Stewart is some sort of wild James-Dean-esque rebel and that Taylor Lautner is a "real life superhero."
Additionally, the art is just awful. The Lautner comic is the best of the bunch -- being merely bland -- but Pattinson and Stewart's faces change with every panel, and Meyers has an evil grin, sinister eyebrows, freakishly tiny hands, and she looks EXACTLY the same from the age of four onward. Most other people look like circus freaks, and Meyers' boring life is spiced up with some hilariously awful artistic conceits (a map of Utah appeared in her hand... for no reason).
"Fame: Twilight" is a blatant, painfully inept cash-grab, apparently slapped together in the hopes that Twilight fans are so fanatical that they will buy literally anything, no matter how bad it is. ...more
Mercy Thompson is one of the cooler heroines of urban fantasy -- instead of a glamorous-sounding "tough girl" job, she's a simple car mechanic. Who woMercy Thompson is one of the cooler heroines of urban fantasy -- instead of a glamorous-sounding "tough girl" job, she's a simple car mechanic. Who works for a faery. And turns into a coyote.
Okay, maybe she's not a "simple" car mechanic, but she is a pleasantly down-to-earth protagonist. And "Patricia Briggs' Mercy Thompson: Moon Called Volume 1 TP (Mercy Thompson 1)" is a solid adaptation of the first half of the first Mercy Thompson book -- lots of lycanthropic action, solid art, and some perplexing color choices.
When a young werewolf runaway named Mac wanders into her garage, Mercy takes the kid under her wing. She even rescues him from a couple of thugs who previously caged and experimented on him, leaving one of the thugs dead.
When she hands Mac over to Adam Hauptmann, the local werewolf Alpha, it seems like her part is over. But then she finds Mac dead on her doorstep, and finds Adam severely wounded. Her only chance of helping him -- and finding out who did this -- is to go in search of the ancient werewolf leader known as the Marrok.
"Patricia Briggs' Mercy Thompson: Moon Called Volume 1" is a textbook example of how to do comic book adaptations RIGHT -- the plot is lean, smooth and fast-moving, with no fat that needs to be trimmed. And David Lawrence balances out the action, dialogue and inner monologuing nicely ("All the testosterone might turn a girl's head...").
As for the art... don't worry. The ugly Brett Boothian cover is NOT representative of the art inside. Amelia Woo's artwork is spare, realistic and detailed, with lots of purple-toned nights, golden-hued indoor shots and grey flashbacks. It's obvious a lot of care went into this work.
The one problem with the art: Why is Mercy white? She's supposed to be half-Blackfeet Indian with coloring to match, yet she has pale skin and reddish-brown hair. To make it even MORE confusing, the half-Salish Charles is given olive skin and black hair, the same coloring Mercy has on the COVER. What gives?
"Patricia Briggs' Mercy Thompson: Moon Called Volume 1" suffers from some bizarre color choices, but otherwise is a solid adaptation of a gritty, suspenseful urban fantasy. ...more
Neil Gaiman's shorter Sandman stories are like gems. But honestly, I've always preferred the longer arc-stories that fill out an entire collection --Neil Gaiman's shorter Sandman stories are like gems. But honestly, I've always preferred the longer arc-stories that fill out an entire collection -- and "The Absolute Sandman Vol. 2" brings together two of those stories, full of the richness of Gaiman's imagination and his entrancingly vivid characters.
"A Season of Mists" opens with a meeting of the Endless going wrong when Morpheus is challenged about his past treatment of his lover Nada. Chastened, he decides to go to Hell and free her. But when he gets there, Morpheus learns that Lucifer is tired of being the lord of Hell, and is busy shutting the whole place down.
Unfortunately, this means leaving the souls of the damned to wander the Earth. He gives ownership of it to Morpheus, but unsurprisingly Morpheus isn't interested. And soon various powers begin appearing to claim it -- ancient gods, demons, Order, Chaos, and Faerie. Who will become the new lords of Hell?
"A Game of You" picks up with Barbie, a very minor character from "The Doll's House," who has broken up with her husband and moved to New York. There she lives in an apartment building with her M-to-F buddy Wanda, a lesbian couple, a weird prim lady named Thessaly, and a weird guy.
But then she has a run-in with an imaginary creature from her childhood, who gives her a magical jewel with his dying breath. Soon Barbie is pulled into the fantasy world of her childhood, where she battles a mysterious enemy called the Cuckoo. But Thessaly and her neighbors set out to rescue her before she is lost forever -- and New York with her.
"Absolute Sandman Vol. 2" shows how incredibly versatile Neil Gaiman's writing can be -- it encompasses different worlds, dimensions and lands in a seeemingly endless, wondrously terrifying universe. But at the same time, it can delve into the infinite complexities of a single human mind.
Gaiman is absolutely brilliant at conjuring the exquisite and the grotesque, the eerie and the strange -- and he manages all of those here. There are childlike imaginings, the twilit realm of the Dreaming, and the visceral grotesqueness of the demons (one is a lumpen creature with a melting eyeless head and toothy mouths for nipples). It fascinates, even in its ugly moments.
My only problem, really, is in "Season of Mists." It bases itself on Christian theology that many people actually believe in (heaven, hell, Satan, angels, God, etc). But it isn't in line with those beliefs, so some parts of it come across as... uncomfortable to devout people.
Morpheus undergoes some truly enthralling character development. He's given a realm he doesn't want, but doesn't seem to have any good way of ridding himself of it (at least, not at first). And the Lord of Dream has to face up to his own misdeeds -- namely, he FINALLY figures out that he was horrible to Nada, and that his punishment of her was cruel.
But "A Game of You" also shows that even the most minor character becomes a fully realized, multidimensional character in Gaiman's hands. Barbie becomes a fragile, rather uncertain young woman, along with Foxglove, Hazel and the gold-hearted Wanda.
"Absolute Sandman Vol. 2" is a must-have for the die-hard aficionados who have some cash burning a hole in their pockets. Truly spellbinding. ...more
The world of comic books was a very different place before the Sandman came into being. Neil Gaiman revolutionized the graphic novel with "The SandmanThe world of comic books was a very different place before the Sandman came into being. Neil Gaiman revolutionized the graphic novel with "The Sandman," an exquisite story filled with shadowy realistic art and strange magical beings. Bringing together the first three volumes, "The Absolute Sandman, Vol. 1" is one of those rare collections that tantalizes you with beauty and chills you to your core, all at the same time.
In "Preludes and Nocturnes," a group of occultists are attempting to summon and trap Death... but instead, they capture Dream and lock him in a glass orb. Decades pass, and countless people are locked in slumber -- unable to dream, unable to wake for long. One day, Dream escapes his prison and reenters the world, but loses the last of his power with his final act of revenge.
His Dreamworld palace has fallen into ruin, and his magical items have been scattered. To regain his power, he must get back his helm, his pouch of sand, and his dreamstone. His journey to regain them will take him across worlds -- to John Constantine and a woman destroyed by dreams, to the depths of Hell at a demonic club, and a ghastly madman who drives various people to depravity and death.
But his problems do not stop there -- in "The Doll's House," Dream discovers a dream vortex. That vortex is Rose Walker, the granddaughter of Unity Kinkaid (who has slept most of her life), who is searching for her imprisoned little brother. And even worse, some of Dream's creatures have escaped, and are wreaking havoc on the waking world.
And in "Dream Country," Gaiman tells us a quartet of haunting stories -- a cat seeking revenge who wanders into the Dream Country, a struggling writer who buys and rapes a muse, an elemental superheroine who longs to die, and Shakespeare performing his classic play "A Midsummer Night's Dream" for the court of Faerie.
The world of "The Sandman" is a strange one -- it lightly interlocks with other graphic novel series, effortlessly slips from one world to another, and exposes both the beauty and ugliness of our own world. "The Absolute Sandman, Vol. 1" is an excellent introduction to Neil Gaiman's strange, expansive world -- as well as his hollow-eyed anti-hero.
And the artwork is sublime -- realistic in style, but often bizarre and a little frightening in theme. And despite the core colors being shadowy greys, whites and blacks, there are splashes of bright colors everywhere. Green fields, blue hallways, psychedelic skies, hallucinations filled with sickly pallid hues.
And Gaiman created one of his most iconic, complex characters in Dream -- his inhumanness is underlined by acts of great cruelty and kindness, and his sad, grim demeanor is more than a little touching. The author also spun up a very nonstereotypical version of Death. No robes, scythes or skeletal faces here. In fact, forget about anything sinister -- this version of Death is a delightfully quirky, perky goth chick.
As for this omnibus edition, it is absolutely gorgeous -- oversized, with gorgeous enhanced colors, strong fabric covers, a sturdy slipcase and some pencil sketches. It's not really one for casual reading, but for collectors.
"The Absolute Sandman, Vol. 1" is a gorgeous rerelease of Neil Gaiman's classic series, but this would be nothing if the material were not so sublime. A delight for comic readers. ...more
Imagine if the "Canterbury Tales" were told not by ordinary people on a pilgrimage, but magical beings in an otherworldly inn. That is the framing devImagine if the "Canterbury Tales" were told not by ordinary people on a pilgrimage, but magical beings in an otherworldly inn. That is the framing device for Neil Gaiman's eighth collection of Sandman comics, "World's End." Morpheus and the Endless have only small parts to play in this story, but it's enough to link together the assorted short stories -- and through it all, Gaiman conjures a sense of wonder and fear.
On a snowy night, a strange beast causes a car crash. Brant manages to carry his coworker Charlene to a nearby inn known as the World's End. It's probably a good thing that Brant seems slightly concussed, because inside are things he probably doesn't think are real -- gods, centaurs, faeries and other weird things that have also taken shelter.
To pass the time, they tell stories -- stories of slumbering cities; the Cluracan's clash with a vile psychopomp in a dying city; a cabin-boy glimpsing the strange mysteries of the sea; Prez Rickard, the greatest president in history; of the necropolis of Letharge; and of the mysteries that dwell inside and outside the inn...
One of Neil Gaiman's greatest skills is to make you see the terrifying, wondrous possibilities of fantasy -- of many worlds like apples on a tree, vast godlike entities walking through a starry sky, and forces so alien and powerful that it makes the spirit quake. Despite the Chauceresque setup of "World's End," these possibilities swim just under the surface.
So you don't see EVERYTHING in the World's End. It's all mirrors and smoke, shadows and flames -- and when you catch a glimpse, you KNOW that there's more to it. But you'll never be the same again.
But even if you take the stories on their own, they're pretty entertaining tales -- some are set in our world, while others are in weird places like the necropolis. There's a lot of weird macabre humor (the drunken Cluracan manages to be both scary AND funny) interspersed with the stories, and the human characters get intertwined with the World's End themselves by the volume's finale.
Morpheus only pops up a few times (mostly to rescue the main characters and pop back out), so a lot of the emphasis is on the people gathered at the inn. Some are frightening, some are comforting, some are weird, and some... are just drunk. The most disappointing part of this collection is the fact that you know there are more stories there, still not told. (Come on, how about that inkeeper?!)
"The Sandman Volume 8: World's End" is a brief stopover before the Sandman series' grand finale, reminding us of the beautiful, terrible world it inhabits. ...more
Approximately 300 years ago, one of the Endless vanished. None of the others have seen him since, nor do they know where he went.
But it was pretty ineApproximately 300 years ago, one of the Endless vanished. None of the others have seen him since, nor do they know where he went.
But it was pretty inevitable that one day, somebody would go looking for him. "The Sandman Vol. 7: Brief Lives" finally reveals what happened to the long-lost lord of Destruction, but it's as the capstone to a bittersweet saga of everyday people, immortals, fallen gods and the most dysfunctional family in the universe.
After having a small meltdown in a gay bar, Delirium decides that she wants to find her older brother Destruction. She tries to enlist Dream to help her, and he decides to accompany his acid-tripping little sister on her quest. He's already decided that her quest is hopeless, but he has nothing better to do after his latest romance failed.
But as Dream and Delirium make their way through the world, they come into contact with several people -- both mortal and supernatural, from bellgirls to goddesses. Soon Dream realizes that they are spreading mayhem to anyone who tries to help them, and that finding his brother will exact a terrible cost from him.
At first, "Sandman Vol. 7: Brief Lives" felt kind of like a lighter, quirky chapter in the Sandman saga -- it's basically Morpheus and Delirium going on a little road trip to find Destruction. It's kind of cute at first, especially since any story with Delirium is sure to be fun. Three words: tiny chocolate people.
But Gaiman's story grows darker and more bittersweet as the the story winds on, especially since he unearths the stories of immortals adrift in a mortal world (think the goddess Ishtar dancing at a strip club). It's a gritty, grimy world full of little flickers of haunting beauty, and ringed with magical realms.
Morpheus has changed drastically over the course of the Sandman series, growing from a cold arrogant creature to a more compassionate one. He's still arrogant, but he recognizes it himself here -- and in a twist worthy of Greek tragedy, he is forced into actions that will resonate through the rest of the series.
We also see more of Delirium, who has always seemed like a quirkily pathetic figure in a psychedelic sherbet-flavored wonderland. But here we see not only her deep love for her family, but a hint that she's more powerful and perceptive than we've seen. And the people who are struck with misfortune aren't just random redshirts -- Gaiman lovely paints out their hopes, pasts and current lives.
While it seems rather lightweight at first, "The Sandman Vol. 7: Brief Lives" winds itself into a darkly bittersweet masterpiece -- and the springboard for the Sandman series' ending. ...more
Do you remember Barbie? Not the doll, but the creepily perky blonde from "The Doll's House" who had a matching husband named Ken. Well, she's the protDo you remember Barbie? Not the doll, but the creepily perky blonde from "The Doll's House" who had a matching husband named Ken. Well, she's the protagonist of the fifth "Sandman" collection, which is accurately titled "A Game of You" -- a haunting, fairy-tale exploration into a young woman's dreaming imagination, and the friends who are trying to save her.
Having split from Ken, Barbie has since moved to New York and is living in a small apartment building with a lesbian couple named Hazel and Foxglove, a kindly M-to-F transsexual named Wanda, a creepy guy, and a prim mystery woman named Thessaly. She also hasn't dreamed in two years.
But then she has a run-in with an imaginary creature from her childhood, who gives her the magical jewel called the Porpentine with his dying breath. And that night, she goes back into a fantasy world from her childhood -- a place of talking animals, haunted forests, and a mysterious enemy called the Cuckoo.
But as Barbie (aka Princess Barbara) sets out to defeat the Cuckoo, Thessaly wakes Foxglove, Hazel and Wanda, and reveals that Barbie is in desperate need of their help -- and uses her magic to open a gateway to the realm of dreams. But they may not be in time to save Barbie from the machinations of the Cuckoo -- or New York from the destructive magic being stirred.
In most authors' works, supporting characters are just window dressing for the main characters. In Neil Gaiman's works, every character has their own unique backstory and purpose in the plot -- Barbie was just one of the minor background characters in a previous story, but in "A Game of You" we discover her dreams, her past, her fears, and her own connection to the Dream King.
And in turn, the other characters are given well-developed backstories, problems and personalities -- the no-nonsense Thessaly, hinted to be an ancient witch or something; Hazel, who is afraid of what her pregnancy might mean for her relationship, and the sensitive, loyal Wanda who will never let Barbie down. Even the crazy dog-hating lady has a REASON to be here, and a history of her own.
Gaiman's storytelling here mingles an enchanted high fantasy world (reminiscent of Narnia) with a darker, more gruesome story. I mean, there's a skinned face with eyes and tongue NAILED TO THE WALL, having a casual conversation with Wanda. Ew. And even if things are worked out by the end, not everything turns out all right -- there are tragic losses, changes, and Barbie has left behind a part of her life.
And where is Morpheus in all this? He only appears in a few scenes, but his involvement is truly vital to the story. And no, I won't say how.
"Sandman Volume 5: A Game of You" will probably leave you with a little smile, but a tear in your eye. A magnificently powerful, haunting story. ...more
Morpheus of the Endless has had many trials throughout the ages... but none quite as strange as the one he must face in "The Sandman, Volume Four: SeaMorpheus of the Endless has had many trials throughout the ages... but none quite as strange as the one he must face in "The Sandman, Volume Four: Season of Mists." The fourth collection of Neil Gaiman's classic Sandman series centers on sudden changes in the world of Hell, and the terrifying choice that the Lord of Dreams must make -- who does it go to?
After a disastrous meeting with the other Endless, Morpheus goes to Hell to set free his onetime lover, Nada. But when he gets there, he finds that Lucifer is tired of being the lord of Hell, and is shutting the whole place down -- and he gives ownership of it to Morpheus. In the meantime, the souls of the damned are roaming Earth, and the anguished demons have nowhere to go.
Morpheus isn't interested in ruling Hell, so soon various powers appear to claim Hell -- Norse, Japanese and Egyptian gods, a trio of powerful demons, Order, Chaos, a Faerie diplomat, and a pair of angels are sent to watch the proceedings. Threats, bribes and tricks ensue, leaving Morpheus with a seemingly-impossible choice to make.
Just a warning: This comic book, despite its brilliant storytelling, left me with a sort of squirmy feeling, because it bases itself on Christian theology that many people actually believe in (heaven, hell, Satan, angels, God, etc). But it isn't in line with those beliefs, so some parts of it come across as... uncomfortable.
However, you should always keep in mind that it is merely fiction. "Season of Mists" is epic in scope -- it encompasses different worlds, dimensions and lands in a seeemingly endless, wondrously terrifying universe. Gaiman is absolutely brilliant at conjuring the exquisite and the grotesque, the eerie and the strange -- and he manages all of those here.
And the art really helps here -- the bleak, raw wastes of Hell, the snowflake beauty of the angels, the visceral grotesqueness of the demons (one is a lumpen creature with a melting eyeless head and toothy mouths for nipples), and the twilit, mildly unnerving realm of Dreaming.
As for Morpheus himself, this story is a surprisingly personal one. He's given a realm he doesn't want, but doesn't seem to have any good way of ridding himself of it (at least, not at first). And the Lord of Dream has to face up to his own misdeeds -- namely, he FINALLY figures out that he was horrible to Nada, and that his punishment of her was cruel. The way their story is wrapped up is painful, but still very touching.
"The Sandman Volume Four: Season of Mists" made me uncomfortable with some of its handling of Christian theology, but there is no denying that it is a richly-imagined, powerful story by a master storyteller. ...more