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Stories: Neil Gaiman
Art: various

The ten-plus volumes of The Sandman, Neil Gaiman's magnum opus about the changes and rebirths of seven personified abstract concepts whose names begin with D, are already heaped so high with critical superlatives that this entire sentence is redundant. If I were to add
a few raves to the pile, it's not that they would be false or without merit, just pleasantly unnecessary. My point is that this is exactly how I see Endless Nights: true to the vision, pleasant, of merit, but contributing almost nothing we didn't already know.

The Dream story, pre-released in the preview issue, was wisely chosen as bait, since it's the only one of the seven that makes any significant references to Sandman continuity. Of the remainder, we have three anecdotes (Death, Desire, Destruction), two art showcases (Delirium, Destiny), and one arty anthology within an anthology (Despair).

All are worth reading, but it helps to set your expectations correctly: none answer any questions you might have about Dream's relatives, none ask new questions for further explorations of their characters, and frankly the more straightforward stories barely require their
respective Endless guest star to appear as an actual character.

Death's story is beautifully illustrated by P. Craig Russell; it's a subtle allegorical tale that takes a while to sink in. The Desire story is as erotic as you might hope, thanks to Milo Manara, and effectively stands alone as a tale of female power in a male-dominated time. The Destruction story comes with somewhat pedestrian art by Glenn Fabry, and unfortunately the writing matches; there are some interesting concepts, but it never really takes off into unexpected territory.

Though Delirium's and Despair's sections look superficially different, they really take a similar approach, presenting sketches of individuals in various states of madness or despair accompanied by complex and sophisticated art. Delirium's is structured as a story (and, happily, includes an appearance by Daniel, Morpheus's successor as Dream) and
Despair's as fifteen "portraits," but neither aims beyond illustration to insight.

Both are feasts for the eyes, but I wish Gaiman had gone a bit further to really come to grips with these two Endless, particularly Despair. Her portraits are lucid and eloquent, but still
somehow manage to feel evasive, as if Gaiman wasn't really sure how to structure a narrative around an emotion this unrelenting.

Destiny closes the book without ever really opening it. Frank Quitely's art is incredible, gorgeous white and bronze and sand just shining on the page, but the writing here is the least satisfying. Gaiman offers little more than captions for the illustrations, and those disinclined to believe in fate will find little here to stimulate their imaginations in that direction.

A lot of Sandman fans are proud to have a row of lavish graphic novels on their shelves, and if you are in this category you will probably have already bought the hardcover. If you are less devoted and less fetishistic, more interested in the narrative than the visual and tactile, you might as well wait for a softcover edition, or better yet borrow this from a friend first. The writing is undeniably literate, the art mostly exquisite, but of the original Sandman -- complex, rich,
wordy, bursting with connections and allusions and foreshadowing, treating the Endless more as characters than concepts -- this is only a distant mirror.


Andrew Simchik


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