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The Sandman: Endless Nights (comic)

Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman is one of the most important comics of all time. Endless Nights is a follow-up to the acclaimed series. There are seven stories, each one focusing on one of the Endless. They are character studies of Death, Desire, Dream, Despair, Delirium, Destruction, and Destiny. There’s a different artist for each story, so each story feels more unique and reflective of the main character. On the Peninsula (Destruction’s story) might be the highlight of this graphic novel. It has amazing art by Glenn Fabry and an interesting plot about an archeologist uncovering artifacts from the future. All in all, Endless Nights is not essential reading, it has no bearing on the main storyline. It’s a way to learn more about Dream’s fucked up family and get a little more information about The Sandman Universe. So only read it if you’ve read all the other ones, otherwise you’ll be lost.

Critically Rated at 14/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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The Sandman: The Wake

All good things must come to an end. The Wake is the tenth and final volume of The Sandman series by Neil Gaiman. There are other comics about Death and his unusual siblings so there’s a lot more Sandman mythology to explore, but the main story ends here.

The first three issues are about the funeral and wake for our old pal Morpheus. While Daniel is trying to settle into his new role as Dream of the Endless, everyone is trying to come to grips with the fact that Morpheus is gone and what that means. The other issues are stand-alone stories about how Morpheus affected a few mortal dreamers. There’s a follow-up on Hob Gadling, the guy who refuses to die. There’s a story about an exiled Chinese dude nearing the end of his life. And it all concludes with William Shakespeare completing his pact with Morpheus by writing his final play for him.

Reading The Sandman is a pretty daunting task. 75 issues spread over 10 volumes is a lot. You feel like you accomplished something when you’ve read all of it. And then you want to find someone else who has read it so that you can talk about it. You want to share it with somebody. You want everybody to know that The Sandman is fantastic; that it’s deep and rich and amazing, that they should have fucking own it and read it once a year. You can’t keep good literature to yourself, that’s just selfish.

Critically Rated at 15/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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The Sandman: The Kindly Ones

The ninth volume of Neil Gaiman’s  The Sandman is the longest one of the series. It collects issues #57-69 and wraps up a lot of the plotlines of The Doll’s House and Brief Lives (Volume 2 and Volume 7). A trio of witches (known as the Furies, the Erinyes, or the Kindly Ones) set out on a path to destroy Morpheus for his shedding the blood of his family. But can they destroy Dream of the Endless?

The book starts with little baby Daniel getting kidnapped. His mom, Hippolyta Hall, goes crazy trying to find him and blames Morpheus for losing him. She vows to kill him and the Furies/Kindly Ones are all too willing to help her out. Morpheus killed his own son, and spilling the blood of your family gives the Furies the power to destroy you. Morpheus learns that actions have consequences and he must pay for the mistakes in his past.

This is one of the most important volumes in the series. It’s pretty much the climax of the series. Plus Morpheus dies. Sorry if that ruins anything for you, but I just had to see if you’re really reading this. I guess you are. You’ll just have to read the book to find out how and why it goes down.

Critically Rated at 13/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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The Sandman: World’s End

A group of travelers get caught in a storm and seek refuge in a mysterious Inn. They pass the time by telling stories. But since this is a Neil Gaiman story, the travelers come from different times, places, and dimensions, the storm that rages is a reality storm, and the inn itself exists between different realms. I think Neil Gaiman smokes a lot of drugs.

            This is the eighth volume of The Sandman, collecting issues #51-#56. Morpheus only makes a few appearances in this volume, the main character is a new guy named Brant Tucker. Brant is driving cross-country when it starts to snow and he gets in an accident. He seeks help at an inn called World’s End. He meets a bunch of other travelers and they regale each other with stories.

            There are stories about characters that we already know like the faerie Cluracan and the immortal Hob Gadling. There’s a story about a US President that makes you wonder how an English author knows so much about Americana. There’s a haunting story about a guy who gets caught in the dreams of a city. And there’s another story about people telling stories in a city for the dead. It’s very meta. Neil Gaiman is telling a story about a guy telling a story in a bar about how he heard stories in an inn, and one of those stories had characters telling stories in that story. Get it? Because I understand it and I still don’t get it.

            This is one of my favorite volumes of The Sandman. If you’ve thought about reading it but aren’t sure if you want to invest all the time, start here and see if you like it. You can just pick it up and read it and understand what The Sandman is about without reading the entire series. It’s a good entry point. It’s smart. It’s entertaining. And it’s a great story.

Critically Rated at 16/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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The Sandman: Brief Lives

Morpheus has a unique family tree. He is one of seven siblings known as the Endless. They are the embodiments of Destiny, Death, Dream, Destruction, Desire, Despair, and Delirium. They are more powerful than gods and they each have a task to do (coincidently they have to do what their name implies). And then one day, Destruction decided that he’s had enough and abandoned his realm and his family. After 300 years, Delirium realizes that she misses she misses her older brother, thus setting in motion the events of Brief Lives.

            Brief Lives is the seventh volume of Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman. It collects issues #41-49. This volume humanizes Dream more than the other installments. He’s moping and feeling sorry for himself after his girlfriend dumps him, when Delirium asks him to help find Destruction. He only agrees to go with Delirium to distract himself, and he gradually gets emotionally invested with the journey. He is changing but he refuses to acknowledge it, even when others point it out to him.

Dream and Delirium embark on one of the weirdest road trips in literary history, trying to track down characters that know where Destruction is hiding. The problem is that everyone they’re trying to track down keep getting killed, an unfortunate byproduct of Destruction’s safeguards. Dream feels regret that people have died, something he wouldn’t have felt thousands of years ago.

Dream and Delirium eventually succeed in their task and are briefly reunited with their brother and his talking dog. They shoot the shit for a while. Destruction explains why he left and why he’s not returning. They have philosophical discussions about who they are, what they represent, and if they are even necessary.

            Brief Lives showcases the unique relationships that the Endless have with each other and with us lowly mortals. Mortals die. Gods die. Even the Endless can end. We all have brief lives. Oh, I get it now. That’s clever, Mr. Gaiman. Brief Lives is another interesting and enjoyable volume of The Sandman, full of great moments and characters.

Critically Rated at 14/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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The Sandman: Fables & Reflections

The sixth volume of Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman is a collection of short single-issue stories. Most of them have no bearing on the overall story arc, but a few of them are required reading. It’s an interesting blend of characters. There are werewolves, characters from the Bible and Greek myths, and real historical characters like Marco Polo and Emperor Augustus Caesar. Somehow they all have a place in the Sandman universe.

            Of the nine short stories, only The Song of Orpheus and The Parliament of Rooks affect the overall plot. Orpheus is the son of Morpheus. Currently he’s a severed head. In the Song of Orpheus you find out how he got all decapitated. The Parliament of Rooks involves Daniel Hall, who ends up being very important in the series.

The other stories involving Marco Polo, Lady Johanna Constantine, a family of werewolves, and a Roman emperor with a dark secret are all impressive in their own way, but the highlights of Fables & Reflections are Ramadan and Three Septembers and a January. Ramadan is about Caliph Harun al-Rashid, a real historical ruler of Baghdad. His city is the greatest city the world has ever known and he wants it to be remembered that way. He makes a deal with Morpheus and his perfect city becomes immortalized by becoming a legend.

Three Septembers and a January is one of my favorite Sandman stories. It’s one of my favorite stories period. It involves another actual historical figure: Joshua Abraham Norton. He’s in the history books for being a crazy guy who declared himself Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico. He lived in San Francisco, the only city in the world that was nice enough to say that he could be Emperor if he wanted to be Emperor. Neil Gaiman takes real facts about Emperor Norton’s life and twists them to fit seamlessly into the world of The Sandman.

            Fables & Reflections is a good read. The independent shorts are interesting and relate thematically to the storylines, even though they don’t affect them directly. Three Septembers and a January stands out and is reason enough to start reading the series. I might be slightly biased because I live in San Francisco, but it’s a great story regardless.

Critically Rated at 14/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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The Sandman: A Game of You

The Sandman is one of the best comics of all time because it appeals to both male and female readers. Volume 5 of the series is one of the female stories according to author Neil Gaiman. Morpheus takes the backseat as Barbie (Rose Walker’s roommate in Volume 2) takes the spotlight. When Barbie dreams, she is the princess of a magical land called The Land. The only problem is that the Cuckoo is taking over Barbie’s dream kingdom. Barbie’s friends in her real life and dream life come to her aid, and there are triumphs, betrayals, and deaths along the way.

            Barbie used to have vivid dreams about her life as Princess Barbara, but she has stopped dreaming. An entity known as the Cuckoo is slowly destroying the Land. Her dream pal Martin Tenbones comes to the real world to bring Barbie back. He dies but still succeeds in his mission, and Princess Barbara returns to the Land. She hangs out with her talking animal friends as they make their way to confront the Cuckoo.

Back in reality, Barbie’s friends are also under attack from the Cuckoo’s minions. Luckily, her friend Thessaly is a witch and is able to use her witch powers save the other friends: a drag queen named Wanda, and two lesbians (one of which is pregnant). Then Thessaly and the lesbians use the moon to go to the Land to help Barbie and kill the Cuckoo, but only after Thessaly makes a dead guy talk by nailing his face, eyes, and tongue to the wall. Witchcraft in the Sandman universe is a little more extreme than in the Potterverse.

            The battle to save Barbie in her dreams is fought in both in her dreams and in the real world. Some of her dream friends come into the real world and some of her friends go into her dreams. There are consequences for doing that in the Sandman universe.

Gaiman was clearly inspired by Narnia and other fantasylands, but he manages to put his own spin on it. The Cuckoo is a great character. It isn’t evil, dangerous yes, but it’s only doing what it’s supposed to do. A Game of You is another great addition to the Sandman saga.

Critically Rated at 14/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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The Sandman: Season of Mists

Season of Mists is the fourth volume of Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman, collecting issues #21-28. It’s about Morpheus trying to correct a past mistake and ending up with the key to Hell. Word gets out, and a bunch of gods, demons, and entities all try to convince the Dream King to give them control of Hell. It would make a great reality show.

Ten thousand years ago Morpheus had a lover who pissed him off, so he banished her to Hell. When his sister tells him that it was kind of a dick move, he decides to set things right by going to Hell and freeing Nada. He shows up in Hell expecting Lucifer to put up a fight and instead finds him in the process of shutting everything down. He’s bored of his job and doesn’t want to do it anymore. He gives Morpheus the key to the empty realm and tells him to do what he wants with it.

Morpheus returns to the Dreaming and gets a bunch of visitors who all want Hell for their own selfish reasons. Odin, Loki, Thor, Order, Chaos, Anubis, Bast, a few demons, a few representatives from Faerie, and various other mythical and religious icons show up and all try to bribe, manipulate, or threaten Morpheus into giving them the key to Hell. But who will he choose and why? You’ll just have to read the comic and find out. Or you can just look it up online, but it won’t be as satisfying.

While Morpheus is dealing with all that shit, the banished Hell dwellers start coming back to life as ghosts. There’s a quick story about a kid named Charles Rowland and how his crappy life at a miserable boarding school gets worse when evil ghosts start torturing him. It’s a highlight of the series.

Season of Mists is one of the more important volumes in The Sandman. You find out a lot about Morpheus. Most of the important characters are featured or at least referenced in some way. It either introduces or reminds you of important plot points and foreshadows events that don’t happen until the later volumes. It’s a fact that The Sandman is one of the best comics of all time. Season of Mists is one of the reasons why.

Critically Rated at 15/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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The Sandman: Dream Country

Dream Country is the third and shortest volume of The Sandman series. It collects issues #17-20 and each of the four stories is self-contained. Calliope is about a writer who imprisons a Muse. A Dream of a Thousand Cats explores how our feline friends experience dreams. A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream shows the premiere of Shakespeare’s play performed in front of an unusual audience. Façade is about a former hero who desperately wants to die but can’t. Morpheus is almost a secondary character in the first three stories and doesn’t even appear in Façade. Dream Country deviates from the main storylines somewhat, but it is thematically relevant, and it has some of the most memorable moments of the series.

Calliope is the first story. Richard Madoc is the author of one successful book, but he is suffering from writer’s block and is way past the deadline for his follow-up novel. He makes a trade with another writer. He gives the writer a bezoar in exchange for Calliope, who is one of the Muses from Greek mythology.

Madoc spends the next few years spending his days writing and raping his secret prisoner. Madoc gets more and more success and fame, and Calliope becomes more and more depressed. She’s able to get a hold of Morpheus and you can tell that there’s some history between the two of them. Morpheus tells Madoc to give her up, but Madoc doesn’t want to because he needs ideas. So Morpheus gives him what he wants: ideas that never stop coming. The flood of excess ideas drives Madoc crazy, but you can’t feel sorry for a rapist.

A Dream of a Thousand Cats is one of the most memorable stories in The Sandman. It’s about a secret cat meeting with a special Siamese cat keynote speaker. The Siamese cat tells an epic story about falling in love with a Tomcat, which resulted in a litter of kittens. Her owners didn’t want the kittens and killed them, and the Siamese cat grows disillusioned with being a pet.

She has a dream where she goes to the Dreaming, and finds Morpheus in feline form. Morpheus tells her that back in the day cats were in charge and humans were subservient. But then man found out that dreams shape the world and a thousand humans dreamed that they were in charge and the world became what it is now. The Siamese cat goes around spreading her message, hoping that she can convince a thousand cats to dream of a world where cats are king again. You’re gonna love this story if you’re a cat person. Dog people might also find it interesting.

A Midsummer’s Night Dream is one of those comics that gets accepted as genuine literature. It even won a World Fantasy Award, the only comic to achieve that feat. It’s probably accepted by the mainstream because it deals with Shakespeare. And it does it in a clever way. Shakespeare and his theater troupe perform A Midsummer’s Night Dream for Morpheus and some notable guests from Faerie. Gaiman makes it meta because Robin Goodfellow (Puck), Titania, and Auberon are audience members and also characters from the play. Robin Goodfellow even takes over playing himself at one point. It’s one of the most creative takes on Shakespeare to date.

Façade takes an obscure and forgotten DC character named Element Girl and shows what happens to a hero that has given up. Urania Blackwell has been forced to retire, she has no friends or family, and no reason to live other than the fact that she can’t kill herself. Her superpowers won’t let her die, and she wants to. It’s a short and depressing story that ends on a happy note when she finally dies. Death can be a good thing for some people.

Dream Country is a great introduction to The Sandman. It’s short, it’s memorable, it’s significant, and you can see if you want to read the other volumes without spoiling the main plot. You can try the flavor of The Sandman and see if it’s right for you.

Critically Rated at 15/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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The Sandman: The Doll’s House (comic)

The Doll’s House is the second volume in Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman. It collects issues #9-16 and focuses on Morpheus trying to track down a Vortex that would destroy the Dreaming. While Preludes & Nocturnes is just establishing the basics, The Doll’s House story arc shows you what The Sandman is capable of doing.

Dream does a census of the Dreaming and discovers that four of his creations have escaped his realm. He must track down Brute and Globe, the Corinthian, and Fiddler’s Green.

Meanwhile a young lady named Rose Walker is learning some things about her family. Like she has an English grandma named Unity Kinkaid. It turns out that when Dream was imprisoned, Rose’s grandma was stuck in a slumber. Someone raped her, she became pregnant and the child was adopted without her ever knowing what happened. Now that Dream is back, Unity is awake and wants to make up for lost time with the family she didn’t know that she had. The family reunion is not complete; Rose has a little brother named Jed that’s been missing for a few years. Rose decides to track him down.

Rose moves into a boarding house temporarily as she starts following Jed’s trail. Her landlord, Hal, works nightclubs as a drag queen. There’s a disgustingly preppy/yuppie couple named Barbie and Ken. There’s Chantal and Zelda, an ambiguous lesbian couple with a collection of stuffed spiders. And there’s Gilbert, an older gentleman with a knack for helping Rose when she needs it the most.

Rose’s quest coincides with Dream’s quest when we find out that Jed is being held hostage by Brute and Glob. They kept Jed in their own Dreamland. Morpheus comes to reclaim Brute and Glob and Jed is free, but is soon picked up by the Corinthian.

There’s a break from the main storyline and we learn about Dream’s friendship with an immortal named Robert “Hob” Gadling. In 1389, Dream and Death stop by a small tavern and hear Hob telling his friends that he doesn’t believe in death, that we only die because we think we have to. He decides that dying isn’t for him. Dream grants him the gift of immortality and the two of them meet in the same tavern every hundred years. Hob’s story is an intriguing distraction.

Rose and Gilbert end up staying at a remote hotel that happens to be hosting a convention for serial killers. The Corinthian is one of the guests of honor. Dream’s creation has been roaming around killing people and eating their eyes. He has a thing for eyes, probably because he doesn’t have any. He has eye sockets lined with sharp teeth. He’s a nightmare and enjoys what he does. Gilbert recognizes the Corinthian and tells Rose to call for Morpheus if she’s in trouble.

Rose gets attacked by one of the serial killers and she calls for Morpheus and he comes and saves her. Then he destroys the Corinthian. Gilbert finds Jed in the Corinthian’s trunk and he’s somehow still alive.

Morpheus tells Rose that she’s a Vortex, and that she will destroy the dreaming unless he kills her. Gilbert shows up and offers to take her place instead. And it turns out that he’s not really human, he is the missing fourth creation. Before he was Gilbert, he was Fiddler’s Green. And he’s not a person, he is a location. Fiddler’s Green in a place. Put that in your pipe and smoke it. Rose is resigned to her fate when grandma Unity comes strolling into the Dreamrealm. Back in the day, she would have been the Vortex, but shit got messed up when Morpheus got himself captured. Unity becomes the Vortex; Morpheus destroys her and saves the Dreaming. Rose gets to go and live with her mom and brother.

At the end of The Doll’s House you find out who raped Unity while she was sleeping. And even though I told you everything that happened, you still don’t know how it happened and that’s the interesting part.

Over the course of the book, you start seeing Rose’s reality crashing down all around her. Reality and Dreaming crash and collide and start to merge together. And you can already tell that Neil Gaiman has a master plan for his series. You can tell that he has everything planned out and that there’s no such thing as a minor character. It’s a very complex comic. Every character and every event is relevant to the overall story in some way.

I’m gonna keep saying that The Sandman is one of the best comics of all time until you read it. So get on it, because I’m tired of sounding like a broken record.

Critically Rated at 16/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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The Sandman: Preludes & Nocturnes

If you say that you like comics and you’ve never read The Sandman, then you don’t know even what comics are capable of. In this first volume of the acclaimed series, writer Neil Gaiman introduces you The Sandman, who is also known as Dream, Morpheus, or a dozen other pseudonyms. Dream is what he sounds like, he is the master of the Dreamworld, he controls dreams, he is Dream. Not a bad gig right? Neil Gaiman blends history, myth, religion, magic, and creates one of the best works of literature of all time. Yeah, it’s that fucking good.

Preludes & Nocturnes collects the first eight issues of the series. It begins in 1916 when Roderick Burgess tries to capture Death and winds up capturing her brother Dream instead. Dream is held captive for more than seventy years. Burgess dies and his son Alex takes over holding Dream hostage. Dream is able to escape, and traps Alex in a perpetual nightmare as punishment.

Dream returns to the Dreamworld and Cain and Abel restore his health. As Dream inspects his kingdom, he finds it in shambles. That’s what happens when you neglect your kingdom for a few decades. Dream embarks on a quest for his totems of power: a bag of sand, his helm, and his ruby, which he lost while imprisoned.

Dream decides to track down his sand pouch first. He gets a little help from John Constantine. One of Constantine’s ex-girlfriends has it and eventually Dream is reunited with his magic dream sand.

Next up is the helm, and Dream finds out that a demon has it. He goes to Hell to pay Lucifer a visit and reclaim it. He has a battle of wits with the demon that currently lays claim to it. Dream is victorious and leaves Hell with Lucifer and the demons grudging against him.

The last item he seeks is his ruby, and that is the hardest one to obtain. Dream put a lot of his power into it, so much that whoever is in possession of it is more powerful than him. And a creepy little guy named John Dee has it now. You might recognize John Dee as the DC villain Doctor Destiny.

John Dee wreaks some havoc toying with the Dreamworld and disrupting the order of things. John Dee and Dream have a dual and Dream is losing when John Dee destroys the Ruby and its power is returned to Dream, making him more powerful than he’s been in centuries.

Preludes & Nocturnes wraps up by introducing Death, Dream’s punky, gothic, and attractive sister. They have a weird little family dynamic. You can tell they are siblings by the way they converse and bicker with each other. They have an interesting conversation as Dream feeds pigeons and as Death goes around collecting recently deceased souls.

Preludes & Nocturnes does a great job of establishing Dream/Morpheus as the brooding and powerful main character. You begin to understand who he is and what he is capable of. And you learn that he has a lot of flaws for a semi-deity. There are introductions to a lot of characters that have key roles in the series later on. They plant the seeds for story arcs that only become apparent as you read on.

Neil Gaiman is gearing up to take you on a great ride. He’s preparing your mind for a world where anything can happen, and by the end of this volume you are ready to embrace the world of The Sandman.

Critically Rated at 16/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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