Aug 25, 2009

[Comics] The Sandman Vol. 10 - The Wake

The Sandman: The WakeAll good things must come to an end, they say, and that happens often enough in the comic book world. Sometimes series end abruptly and it leaves the fans reeling, trying to figure out just what happened. Other times the ending is deliberate and planned and things end well enough but it still leaves us wishing things didn't have to end that way.

The seven year run of Neil Gaiman's The Sandman certainly changed the face of comic books for many and helped define the kind of stories Vertigo as a line would try to tell in the years to come. It also showcased for the world just what Gaiman was capable of and further endeared him to a much larger fan base.

The writing in The Sandman was radically different from most of the comics that came before it and even the way things ended was unique to the series. How often do you get to spend 6 issues on just discussing the end of a series?

The Sandman: The Wake is the tenth and final collection of The Sandman series of comics. It collects the last 6 issues of the series, #70-75.

With the death of Dream in The Kindly Ones (along with the "birth" of Daniel as the new aspect of Dream), the time has come for him to be mourned properly. Given he is one of the Endless, his funeral is different from anything else we mere mortals would enjoy. The Endless gather (save for Destruction) and go through the appropriate arrangements which lead up to all of creation joining the ceremonies in The Dreaming. Thus it unites pretty much all characters that have gotten involved in the series at one point another and a generous amount of cameos from the primary DC universe.

Beyond the funeral, the book also covers a few standalone stories that pretty much follow other parts of the world and how they respond to the death of Dream or at least deal with the prospects of his end.

I found the way Dream's wake was handled to be highly interesting, no matter what angle you look at things. Sure, it's pretty cool that one can summon all of the dreamers of the world into one place to mourn the passing of an Endless but was even more striking was the intricate ceremony The Endless themselves had to go through in terms of their funeral arrangements. Now it truly made sense why the necropolis Litharge was introduced in a prior collection, Worlds' End - naturally they would take part even in these proceedings.

Plus there was the whole strange angle of the fact that while they were mourning the passing of Morpheus, the last Dream, a new Dream had been instantly created upon his death in the form of Daniel. How does one mourn a predecessor who is still essentially you in terms of overall identity? What does it feel like to have your new family mourn the passing of your former self and yet you are also that same person? The possibilities remain limitless and truly Gaiman deserves kudos for a story as complex as this.

Then come the last three stories that try to address the end of the series in the a different way. Naturally the funeral was meant to act as an end to the series in is own right but Gaiman went further than that and explored things suing some of the other characters he introduced in the series - the undying Robert Gadling and even William Shakespeare. In the usual fashion of the series, these are stories that don't feature Dream or the Endless as the fore but instead focus on other characters, and yet the discussion therein and the plot itself still involves the fate of the Endless as well.

Seriously, I can't think of a better way to end this series given the very way it carried on over the years. At the end of things I was naturally left with a longing for more Sandman stories, but at the same time I was beyond content. Going through all 75+ issues was a highly rewarding experience and one that I definitely won't mind repeating if need be.

The Sandman: The Wake gets 4 stray kittens out of a possible 5.

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