Rob McMonigal's Reviews > The Sandman: Endless Nights

The Sandman by Neil Gaiman
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Feb 05, 2008

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Singer-songwriter Fish has a line about returning to your past. When asked, as he often is at concerts, to play one of the seminal songs from his former band Marillion, he responds, "I'm not playing fucking Grendel!" His point is that to try and relive the past like that would make no sense--he can't sing it the way he used to, the meaning's not there. It would be nostalgic at best, off-key at worst. Trying to relive something you did years ago and have moved on from is not the best plan.

Which brings me to this graphic novel. Gaiman got his name writing an amazing series called Sandman that was already unraveling a bit by the end. He'd simply said all he wanted to do, and to make sure he was done, he destroyed his work ala the way Shakespeare destroyed his in the Tempest. He even gives us one last hurrah by linking the two together. It's a great idea. It was a great way to go out.

But fans clamor for more. They always do. No one knows when to "close the book and gracefully decline" if I may borrow yet another musical reference. We've got Indiana Jones and the Nursing Home of Doom on deck and I just saw an ad for an all-new Rambo--still starring Stallone! If you want further proof that going back and doing more is a bad idea, I have two words for you: Phantom Menace.

Gaiman tries his best to work some old magic in this one, but it's clear his attention is elsewhere. Death's story, brilliantly illustrated by P. Craig Russell, almost captures what used to be, but the ending twists what looked interesting into a simple "a killer justifies his life" plot line. There's some great ideas and Death as always steals the show, but it feels like it was rushed.

Desire's story is by far the best of the collection. Folklore, myth, and tales of olden times given a modern perspective weave together as a woman uses the power of Desire to get what she wants--at a terrible cost. These are themes that feature prominently in Gaiman's prose and his current film work, and it's obvious he's very engaged in this one. The Artwork, just a bit out of focus in many ways, captures how we see something when we desire it. This was my favorite, and it would have made a great one-shot.

Dream, the character most closely associated with Gaiman, gets rather shorted here, as his story features an ensemble cast. This is a story from the past, when Dream was more apt to love. The Endless meet up with the stars to plan the future. Dream brings his girlfriend, a young from from a planet we'll hear more about in other times. Meanwhile, Despair woos a red sun into tragic plots, and Desire does what he does best. I'm a bit surprised Gaiman tries to link the Endless to the DC universe Canon--he even mentions in the first trade of Sandman that when he tried to do that, he felt he failed. This is a story designed to show why some of the things happened the way they did in the series, and I'm not sure that was needed. It's a very clever tale, however. Yet it's not a real story about Dream.

Despair's chapter is very rough, as expected,. As experimental graphic work goes, I'm sure it's good, but not really my taste.

Delirium has gone a bit mad, even for her, and it's up to a few who think like she does to save her. Bill Sienkiewicz does the art duties here and his half normal art, half odd graphical work serves the story well. None of this story makes sense, but that's to be expected. It sets up the Destruction tale in the next story, where a woman goes to excavate the future--and finds some things man would be better off not knowing. Can Delirium--who's more her usual self here--and Destruction convince this archaeologist-for-hire that preservation is not always what it's cracked up to be? Again, like the Death story, I feel that this plot has been done too many times to make it worthy of what used to be written in Sandman.

Last is Destiny, who mostly gets a character description. This is a shame, because I think there could have been a great story about how Destiny, like Gaiman, knows all, and choses that which he opts to share, just as a writer chooses what to write. This is what I mean when I said I don't think his heart was completely into the writing--none of the stories really push the boundaries the way that Gaiman does when he's in his stride.

These are nice tales of the Endless for those who wanted more. But they're just that--more. They aren't the type of writing that makes a person who doesn't normally read "edgy" comics sit up and take notice the way that Sandman changed how I read comics. This is an encore from a man who's doing other things. Because he's so good at writing, they are still good stories. They just aren't what I've come to expect from Gaiman, and I don't think that was his fault. He felt it was time to write more Endless stories. I think he may have stretched that desire a bit too thin here. If we get more Endless, I'd prefer it to be in the form of a one-shot, so that the best idea is what we get. I'd love to read more, too--but only if it really needs to be said. (Library, 01/08)

Trebby's Take: Not as satisfying as I'd hoped. Still worth reading, but please don't make this your introduction to Sandman.
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Started Reading
January 1, 2008 – Finished Reading
February 5, 2008 – Shelved

Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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message 1: by Michael (new)

Michael Barron While I liked this more than you (although I was neither a fan of Del's and Despair's) I think you make a really good point about not being stuck to the past.

Marlene Well, I definitely agree that this should not be anyone's intro to Sandman. I feel like anyone who chose to start here would seriously be ripping themselves off.
However, I am digging it as an after-piece. I finished the core series years ago, and I've been reading more Gaiman lately, but I really just missed The Endless. I think this is a really nice collection, but yes, definitely a work of nostalgia.
I don't think it would work if you tried to see it as a part of the core series, but as a standalone tribute, I think it's great. Well, for anyone who needs it. I guess I'm one of those people. ;p

Elin "he destroyed his work ala the way Shakespeare destroyed his in the Tempest. "

Being very familiar with both works, I'm still not sure what you mean by this. Could you elaborate?

Incidentally, I thought Desire's was by far the worst of the lot... but different strokes for different folks as they say.

message 4: by Brian (new)

Brian Mccooley However, Fish eventually started playing Grendel again. Perhaps the past is never fully past.

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