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A rare example of comic-book literature
on 13 April 1999
Season of Mists is probably the best of the Sandman series of collections. It is the point at which the Sandman series of comics raises itself from the level of the grue and gothic of old 1950s horror comics and becomes something quite trancendent.
The story rests on an intriguing principle: The Devil is quitting hell. He's had enough, and is giving the personnification of Dream the key, to deal with as he wishes. The place is described as 'prime psychic real-estate', and is emtied of its previous inhabitants. On Earth, the dead souls drift ailessly back into their own life patterns. Meanwhile, Dream finds a crowd of prospective buyers at his door, including gods from virtually every world mythology, as well as faeries and angels. Deals are offered, many story threads are begun, and we are introduced properly to Dream's family, the Endless: Desire; Despair; Delerium; Destiny and Death, a cute Goth chick without a scythe in sight.
Gaiman's charm lies in his twists on popular mythology (e.g. Death), the complexities of his plots and the recurrence of sympathetic characters in stories that seem initially separate. Esoteric occult horror blends seamlessly with gritty drama and men in neon spandex to produce a varied and fascinating story that the reader cannot help but be drawn into.
The Sandman series benefits greatly from the comic-book format. Gaiman is a fantastic writer of comics, there is no doubt about that, and his forays into screenplay and novel writing (with the notable exceprtion of Good Omens, co-written with Terry Pratchett) have never proved as polished. Even if you are not a reader of comics, I would unhesitatingly recommend this for anyone who has ever enjoyed Clive Barker, Anne Rice, Terry Pratchett, C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton or Edgar Allen Poe. My lingering image from the book is that where Lucifer, his wings cut away, sits on an Australian beach, and grudgingly congratulates God on his sunsets. And as for the ending... well, you'll just have to read the book.