Saturday, July 12, 2014

The Sandman, Volume 4: Season of Mists

 I remember the thrill of anticipation that I had reading the "Season of mists" storyline when it originally ran in THE SANDMAN, circa 1990/1991. In hindsight, one of the (most) brilliant things that writer Neil Gaiman does with this series is twist and circumvent reader expectations. This arc was presented as "The Sandman goes to Hell to confront Lucifer for the soul of his condemned lover, Nada." This reader was expecting full-blown Horror, an epic confrontation between Morpheus and a much-more-powerful adversary, a massive throwdown that would shake the very foundations of the series. Well, Morpheus did end up going to Hell, loaded for bear, and ready for a battle that he may very well lose. And Gaiman got to that confrontation in the second issue (Of an eight-issue arc...), and took all of my expectations and turned them on their head. Instead of fight worthy of Miracleman/Kid Miracleman, I was presented with a massive talking heads arc that was mostly comprised of various mythological and supernatural entities sitting (And standing) around talking. And I loved every minute of it. Such is the brilliance of Neil Gaiman.

 Rereading this arc for the fourth of fifth time, nearly a quarter of a century later, it still stands as a high-water mark for the comics medium. The confrontation in Hell takes an unexpected turn, as Morpheus is greeted in Hell by a departing Lucifer, who has, in effect, closed down Hell, locking it up and banishing the inhabitants as he departs, forsaking his role as the ruler of the damned.

 His parting shot..? He gives the key to Hell to Morpheus, who finds himself besieged by throngs of guests to his realm, who have all come to petition him for ownership of the now-abandoned realm of Hell.

 THE SANDMAN, VOLUME 4: SEASON OF MISTS is a hugely important part of the overall SANDMAN story, and quite a few seeds are sown here that will bear fruit later in the series. This volume also introduces Rowland & Paine, "The Dead Boy Detectives", who have gone on to headline a few Vertigo mini-series of their own, as well as giving readers their first glimpse of Delirium, my personal favorite member of The Endless, Morpheus' little sister.

 I really can't stress enough what a great series this is, and how rewarding it is to read it in it's entirety. There's so much to take in, and just about every word uttered by any and all of the characters turns out, at some point, to be vitally important to the story. Amazing, intricately-plotted stuff, and Gaiman makes it all look effortless. This is as highly recommended as it gets, folks.

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