The Sandman, Vol. 4: Season of Mists by Neil Gaiman, et al.

INFORMATION

Goodreads: Sandman, Vol. 4: Season of Mists
Series:  None
Source: Library
Published: 1990

SUMMARY

Ten thousand years ago, Dream of the Endless sentenced a woman to hell because she would not be his queen.  Now, tortured by the thought that he might have been wrong, Dream determines to return to hell and release her.  But Lucifer is an old enemy and not likely to allow him entry.

Matt Wagner (Illustrator), George Pratt (Illustrator), Dick Giordano (Illustrator), Kelley Jones (Illustrator), P. Craig Russell (Illustrator), Mike Dringenberg (Illustrator), Malcolm Jones III(Illustrator) , Todd Klein (Letterer).

REVIEW

I admit that part of the reason I could never find myself part of Neil Gaiman’s massive fan base is because his prose annoys me.  It tries too hard to be “high,” to model itself on J. R. R. Tolkien, to say, “Look at me!  I am dramatic and clever!”  It jars me out of the story and causes me to contemplate why Gaiman thinks this is an effective writing style.  Sandman, Vol. 4: Season of Mists begins with that same style.  It is full of repetition and elaborate names.  “Destiny of the Endless” gets a lot of play in the first few pages.  Fortunately, the story gets better and the plot is inventive enough that I am willing to suspend my usual distaste for Gaiman’s prose and admit that that I enjoyed this story.

To explain why I found this story so inventive and delightful would be to give away too many plot points.  So I will not say much, other than that  Gaiman plays with familiar characters and concepts and turns them on their heads.  Some might find his treatment of religion, of angels and demons, irreverent.  Gaiman clearly means them to be.  He is criticizing Christianity.  But in doing so, he raises questions about free will, about the nature of hell, about death.  He is exploring and probing and playing.  You do not have to agree with his conclusions or his apparent beliefs to appreciate his willingness to engage with such topics.

And the art is beautiful.  It is marred by a series of images that seem eroticize (often bound) women and to suggest that female sexuality is monstrous.  (Actually the treatment of women in general throughout the novel is arguably not great, both in the illustrations and in the text.)  However, if you are accustomed to trying to overlook sexism in an attempt to enjoy a graphic novel now and then, you may find it possible to appreciate the art anyway.  Even though the panels are fairly regular and the artists do not do much creatively with the spreads, the individual panels contain very detailed illustrations.  There is  a lot going on, to enjoy and to analyze.

Gaiman fans will not need my positive review of this work to continue appreciating his work and the large range of genres it encompasses.  Others, however, may be interested in knowing that this is the first Gaiman work I’ve read that has really captivated me.  I would be willing to try another book of his again, just to see if he can work his magic again.

4 stars

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