Aug 25, 2009

[Comics] The Sandman Vol. 9 - The Kindly Ones

The Sandman Vol. 9 - The Kindly OnesThe Sandman stories have always tapped into classic mythology for many of its stories, or at the very least its characters. One can trace things back to the Christian creation myths given the presence of Eve, Cain and Abel and naturally the larger pantheons like the Greek, Norse and Egyptian gods. Being a fan of mythology myself, it certainly made it a lot easier to relate to many of the characters. Tapping into pre-established characters always saves one time in terms of needing to establish character histories.

I guess that will always be one of the main things that make me love Neil Gaiman's writing - his penchant for taking the ordinary or otherwise familiar and tweak things ever so slightly into something else entirely.

The Sandman: The Kindly Ones is the 9th compilation of The Sandman series of comics. It collects issues 57-69 and Vertigo Jam #1. One could say that this story arc is pretty much the climax of the entire series, at least in my opinion. I say this only because this major story arc pretty much draws on many of the diverse characters that Gaiman had introduced into the series over the years.

Here, Hippolyta Hall comes home to find her son Daniel missing and is eventually led to believe that Dream of the Endless is responsible. She eventually joins with the triad of witches or the Furies, depending on which aspect of their identity is presented during the story. The Furies are motivated by their own need to exact revenge on Dream for the crime of spilling the blood of a family member, in this case that of his son Orpheus whom he euthanized at Orpheus' request.

Cain and Abel (comics)Image via Wikipedia

Now the story itself comes off pretty complex and I found myself digging through previous books in order to refresh my memory in terms of who the characters were. We had the return of the Norse gods, especially Loki and even the reviving of storylines related to characters like the witch Thessaly and Puck / Robin Goodfellow to name a few. Thus it gave it the sense that this was a very well-planned story, and perhaps one might theorize that a lot of the previous stories were groundwork deliberately created in order to accomplish this masterpiece work.

Different analyses of the story compare it to a classic Greek tragedy in terms of structure, and I can certainly see that. It's probably what makes it such a rich and complex story and overall it was executed masterfully.

I have to admit I wasn't comfy with the change in art style. After getting used to the predominant style of the series over the years of its production, this sudden shift so close to the end was rather dramatic and added an extra layer of difficulty in terms of taking in the story. Let's face it - many of the characters tapped from the older books looked a bit different this time around, thus the need to compare with the earlier issues more and more.

Ultimately, this story just has too many possible angles, that it's more than tricky to try and understand things in one go. One will definitely benefit from repeated readings of this story arc and those that link to it in order to better understand the events but more importantly to understand why Dream did what he did. his actions certainly fell within the definitions of the Greek tragic hero, but there's more to it than just that. I'll leave it to you to fully appreciate that nuance on your own.

The Sandman: The Kindly Ones gets 4.5 emeralds out of a possible 5.


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