Endless Nights review – Oregonian

Sarah Kremen-Hicks reported the following review of Endless Nights in the November 30th Oregonian:
If you’re a follower of Neil Gaiman, you’ll know that Dream hates Desire. Of course, family dynamics being complicated things, this wasn’t always the case. The Sandman: Endless Nights, Gaiman’s newest offering, includes a story of long ago and far away, in which the Lord of Dreams counted Desire as his favorite sibling.

Perhaps that made no sense to you; maybe you’ve never heard of Gaiman or ‘The Sandman,’ his wildly popular comic. Dream and his siblings (Destiny, Death, Destruction, Despair, Desire and Delirium) are the Endless, personifications of their names. As Gaiman explains it, the series follows Dream as he ‘learns that one must change or die, and makes his decision.’

I stumbled onto ‘The Sandman’ in 1995, eight years after Gaiman began it. I was a smart kid with a fairly high opinion of my own literary taste, and I certainly didn’t read comics.

I was hooked immediately.

Gaiman’s epic story of the Lord of Dreams incorporates classical myth, obscure history, religion, traditional superhero comics and utterly engaging storytelling. These aren’t the ‘bam, pow’ comics I remember from my childhood — here Calliope and Shakespeare rub elbows with the Emperor of the United States. Half the fun is catching the in-jokes, and being able to say ‘I knew that!’ when Gaiman produces some random bit of trivia.

Then, a year later, he finished the story he had started, and it was over. In a medium not known for its endings (how often has Superman been ‘revitalized?’) this was news. ‘The Sandman’ had a huge following, but Gaiman was done.

Of course, there were codas. Death and Dream reappeared in works by Gaiman, and DC launched The Dreaming, a hit-and-miss monthly comic written by various other authors and featuring several peripheral characters. In a story about stories, there will always be stories left to tell.

Gaiman went on to write short stories, novels (American Gods), a television miniseries (Neverwhere), children’s books (Coraline), and a Weblog (look on <a href="http://www.neilgaiman.com/journal/journal.asp"
>www.neilgaiman.com). Fans who had fallen in love with ‘The Sandman’ followed him as he hopped across media and genre.

And now he’s come back.

With ‘Endless Nights’, Gaiman offers seven new illustrated stories of Dream’s marvelously dysfunctional family. A different artist is paired with each story, and all prove wonderfully matched. Newcomers can certainly enjoy these, and longtime fans won’t be disappointed. Gaiman is returning because he has new stories to tell.

One such story, ’15 Portraits in Despair’, is neither a classic narrative nor a traditional comic. Barron Storey provides strange, brittle art to accompany the vignettes: exam questions no one can answer, an author with no words left.

Desire, the antagonist of ‘The Sandman’, gets his-or-her own story, with haunting illustrations by Milo Manara. Following a more traditional narrative and panel format, it presents Desire not as a manipulative villain, but as Dream’s equal, ruler of a very different, just as all-encompassing demesne.

Both stories, in their own way, are profoundly unsettling.

As always, Gaiman solves a few old mysteries while raising a host of new ones. The artists all know when to take a back seat to the words, and Gaiman is excellent at letting the pictures speak for him; the integration is nearly seamless. Ultimately, these are stories that only Gaiman could have told: disturbing, eerie and beautiful, a welcome return for old friends, and a wonderful introduction for new ones.