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The search for Destruction
on 23 February 2014
Approximately 300 years ago, one of the Endless vanished. None of the others have seen him since, nor do they know where he went.
But it was pretty inevitable that one day, somebody would go looking for him. "The Sandman Vol. 7: Brief Lives" finally reveals what happened to the long-lost lord of Destruction, but it's as the capstone to a bittersweet saga of everyday people, immortals, fallen gods and the most dysfunctional family in the universe.
After having a small meltdown in a gay bar, Delirium decides that she wants to find her older brother Destruction. She tries to enlist Dream to help her, and he decides to accompany his acid-tripping little sister on her quest. He's already decided that her quest is hopeless, but he has nothing better to do after his latest romance failed.
But as Dream and Delirium make their way through the world, they come into contact with several people -- both mortal and supernatural, from bellgirls to goddesses. Soon Dream realizes that they are spreading mayhem to anyone who tries to help them, and that finding his brother will exact a terrible cost from him.
At first, "Sandman Vol. 7: Brief Lives" felt kind of like a lighter, quirky chapter in the Sandman saga -- it's basically Morpheus and Delirium going on a little road trip to find Destruction. It's kind of cute at first, especially since any story with Delirium is sure to be fun. Three words: tiny chocolate people.
But Gaiman's story grows darker and more bittersweet as the the story winds on, especially since he unearths the stories of immortals adrift in a mortal world (think the goddess Ishtar dancing at a strip club). It's a gritty, grimy world full of little flickers of haunting beauty, and ringed with magical realms.
Morpheus has changed drastically over the course of the Sandman series, growing from a cold arrogant creature to a more compassionate one. He's still arrogant, but he recognizes it himself here -- and in a twist worthy of Greek tragedy, he is forced into actions that will resonate through the rest of the series.
We also see more of Delirium, who has always seemed like a quirkily pathetic figure in a psychedelic sherbet-flavored wonderland. But here we see not only her deep love for her family, but a hint that she's more powerful and perceptive than we've seen. And the people who are struck with misfortune aren't just random redshirts -- Gaiman lovely paints out their hopes, pasts and current lives.
While it seems rather lightweight at first, "The Sandman Vol. 7: Brief Lives" winds itself into a darkly bittersweet masterpiece -- and the springboard for the Sandman series' ending.