Aug 4, 2009

[Comics] The Sandman Vol. 4 - Season of Mists

The Sandman: Season of MistsMy adventure into the Vertigo universe of The Sandman was definitely an interesting one. With the completion of every compilation, I was left reeling with trying to understand everything I had just read while steeling myself for whatever surprises lay in the next book. You simply had no idea as to where Gaiman was planning to take the stories next and given it's often non-linear nature, one can't really predict the next steps accurately.

Sure, he laid a lot of groundwork in terms of a lot of supporting characters, different locations and many possible plot twists to explore, but one can never really tell when the story he or she is reading now is something that will be deeply involved in the main story arc or will just be one of those one-shot deals that make the who experience still interesting but not necessarily directly contributing to the whole.

I admit that I really enjoyed this collection given the diversity of this particular story and how they chose to tap various religions and pantheons in unique and diverse ways.

The Sandman: Season of Mists is the fourth compilation of the much-loved Gaiman series, collecting the story arc of the same name covered in issues 21-28 of the comic book.

Lucifer (DC Comics)Image via Wikipedia

In this collection, Dream is eventually taunted into agreeing to try and rescue a former lover, Nada, whom he had imprisoned in Hell in some former fit of rage. Given in the first collection, Preludes & Nocturnes, Dream managed to best the demons of hell in a challenge in order to regain his Helm, the denizens of the underworld are not of the welcoming sort. Lucifer had gone as far as warning Dream never to return and yet despite that warning he does venture to find...Lucifer shutting down Hell. Satan then goes on to give Dream the keys to Hell and leaves it to him what to do with the realm.

This is what ultimately drives the story - various representatives of different factions and pantheons venture to The Dreaming in order to make their case for why Hell should be turned over to them. The assembled guests touch on many ancient religions and mythologies with the Egyptian and Norse factions being but a few examples. There's a lot of maneuvering and deal-making attempted throughout this story as each tries to find a possible bargaining advantage they can use to claim Hell for themselves.

Religion in stories always worries me not out of extreme respect but more for how it tends to be stereotypically represented. Involving characters representing religions and mythologies has become pretty much old hat these days but the way it was handled here in The Sandman was worlds away from many others I've read over time. In fact, this story definitely gives me a better understanding of how Neil Gaiman eventually developed the kind of thinking and story concepts that eventually lead to the writing of novels such as American Gods and Anansi Boys. There was nothing corny or cheap in how he handled the various gods, goddesses, lords and ladies in this book - each was presented in a manner that was as completely honest to their natures as possible without overly resorting to exaggeration or caricature.

Plus the entire gambit that Lucifer executed here was just...brilliant! I mean seriously, he had threatened Dream with dire consequences should he ever return to Hell and the beginning of the book included a lot of posing and threatening gestures on the part of the Devil as he prepared for Dream's arrival and then...the big finish. While closing Hell may not seem like a punishment against Dream, you'll just have to read the book to understand just how crazy it gets and how heavy the burden becomes. Kudos to you, Neil, for that amazing bit of creative storytelling right there.

While this isn't necessarily my favorite collection, it definitely ranks highly up there. This book just acted as a showcase of just a part of what Neil Gaiman can do with the written word and a nice primer to understand some of his later projects that have come out in more recent times. The man is sheer genius, I cannot stress that enough.

The Sandman: Season of Mists gets a full 5 Chaos balloons out of a possible 5.


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