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Neil Gaiman – The Absolute Sandman, Vol. 2

January 12, 2009

3. The Absolute Sandman, Volume 2 by Neil Gaiman, Shawn McManus, Kelley Jones, Mike Dringenberg, Bryan Talbot, John Watkiss, Matt Wagner, Stan Woch, Colleen Doran, Duncan Eagleson, John Bolton, Malcolm Jones III, George Pratt, Dick Giordano, P. Craig Russell, Vince Locke, Daniel Vozzo, Steve Oliff, Todd Klein, Dave McKean (2007 – collection; 1990-1992 individual issues)

Read my review of Volume 1

Length: 616 pages

Genre: Graphic Novel; Fantasy/Horror

Started: 04 January 2009
Finished: 07 January 2009

How many bits of
mythology can Gaiman
fit in one comic?

Summary: Volume 2 of the Absolute Sandman collection includes issues #21-39 of the original Sandman comics, enlarged and re-inked, as well as reprints of some miscellaneous Sandman-related things, including afterwords and contributer notes from the original trade paperback compilations, the story “The Flowers of Romance” featuring Dream’s sister Desire, some merchandising from the first Sandman month, a collection of Sandman-inspired artwork from a variety of artists, and the original script and sketches from issue #23.

The bulk of the book is taken up by two main story arcs – “Season of Mists”, in which Lucifer decides to close down Hell, and give the key to Morpheus, who is then immediately set upon by delegates from a variety of factions, all wanting to claim Hell for themselves; and “A Game of You”, in which Barbie (first introduced in “A Doll’s House”) is being pursued by a creature called The Cuckoo, and must go into her childhood Dreaming to save her friends there… while in the real world, her friends and neighbors are doing what they can to protect her. In addition to these two main arcs, there are also five single-issue stories (labelled as “Distant Mirrors” and “Convergence”), which take place in the French Revolution, ancient Rome, 1800s San Francisco, a desert in China, and eastern Europe, and encompass Robspierre, Orpheus, Augustus Caesar, the only Emperor of America, Marco Polo, gypsies, Baba Yaga and werewolves.

Review: Oh. I get it now.

What, you want more? Well, okay. Whereas the first volume of the Sandman collection interested me but didn’t bowl me over, this one drew me in, rolled me around in a stew of mythology and pathos and poignancy, and spat me out a Fan. (Maybe not enough of a Fan to drop the several hundred dollars to get a full set of them for my own, but a Fan nevertheless.)

The Season of Mists was a great, layered story, drawing on more mythologies than I can count. Read into this what you will, but I think the story of Lucifer is one of the more fascinating parts of Judeo-Christian mythology, and Gaiman delivers a doozy of a story here. The idea of the devil being tired of hell is not particularly a new idea, but the direction Gaiman takes it in this arc is incredible. A Game of You is different, existing in a new and unique metaphysical space – one which I’m still not sure I’ve got my head entirely around – but filling it with a moving story and a horde of outlandish but immediately recognizable and sympathetic characters.

While I really enjoyed both of the main story arcs, I really loved the stand-alone stories. They’re Sandman stories only tangentially – Morpheus moves through most of them only at the periphery. But still Gaiman pulls elements from across the world and throughout history, and makes each of them into a hauntingly moving story, which can be enjoyed on a superficial level, but simultaneously gets deeper the more you examine it. “Haunting” is good word for the collection as a whole – it has certainly set its hooks into my psyche. 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: With the stories in this collection, Gaiman achieves the depth for which the earlier Sandman stories were grasping. I wouldn’t recommend reading them out of order, but for anyone ambivalent after Volume 1: It gets better. Much better. Keep going.

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

Other Reviews: Anybody review this, or any of the component parts? Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it in.

  • Season of Mists
    1. A Prologue
    2. Chapter One
    3. Chapter Two
    4. Chapter Three
    5. Chapter Four
    6. Chapter Five
    7. Chapter Six
    8. Epilogue
  • Distant Mirrors
    1. Thermidor
    2. August
    3. Three Septembers and a January
  • A Game of You
    1. Chapter One: Slaughter on Fifth Avenue
    2. Chapter Two: Lullabies of Broadway
    3. Chapter Three: Bad Moon Rising
    4. Chapter Four: Beginning to See The Light
    5. Chapter Five: Over the Sea to Sky
    6. Chapter Six: I Woke Up and One of Us Was Crying
  • Convergence
    1. The Hunt
    2. Soft Places
5 Comments leave one →
  1. January 13, 2009 10:35 am

    Awesome review! I’m planning to re-read the entire Sandman saga this year, oh and the Lucifer series too. I’m not sure what other spin-offs are good, although The Sandman Presents looks interesting.

  2. January 13, 2009 4:29 pm

    lol! Love the Haiku. And the “Oh. I get it now” made me smile like this: :D

    The series gets SO much better as it goes along. And yes, even better than this. Wait until you get to Brief Lives or World’s End. The thing you said about the short stories, with The Endless being tangential and the stories being mostly about people…a lot of the later volumes are like that.

    As much as I love his novels, this series remains the main reason why Neil Gaiman is my favourite author.

  3. January 13, 2009 4:37 pm

    Joanne – The Lucifer series? I didn’t know such a thing existed… although I s’pose I should worry about Vols. 3 & 4 before I start branching off into spin-offs.

    Nymeth – Gaiman’s an incredible storyteller, no denying it! I’m next in line for Vol. 3 at the library, so I should be able to get my fix soon. :)

  4. January 15, 2009 9:27 pm

    Yeah! I’m glad you “get it now.” I thought Season of Mists might do it.

  5. January 17, 2009 9:14 am

    Laura – Okay, okay, you guys win, I’m sorry I ever doubted. :-D

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