Season of Mists
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The Sandman just keeps getting more and more ambitious. As grand as I think Season of Mists is (I always remembered it to be one of my favorites) it fell a little short for me this time around. The set pieces and characters that appear seem to be more the point than the actual story.
We meet the rest of the Endless (minus Destruction) and Dream is goaded into saving Nada from Hell. I think Death’s statement of “That’s a really shitty thing to do” is a vast understatement.
Once in Hell, Dream finds it empty, and Lucifer (and I suppose, Gaiman) makes grand speeches before abandoning his post. I think there are some good points here, but it does feel a little clunky. Comic books – even highly literate ones – are about the combination of words and images and there’s just too many words and too little action.
As other pantheons pursue the Key to Hell, we get to meet a bunch of old god and goddess and entities. All of this is fun and feels pretty well educated. It expands on the seeds of story Gaiman began to build in earlier volumes. The story itself is more dramatic than action-packed, and the resolution is basically a deus ex machina (although in a somewhat self-aware way – it doesn’t quite build to an outcome the way I expected). While there was no really another way for it to end, the build-up does sort of fizzle out.
Thus far, I think artistically, this is the most uneven of the Sandman volumes. A half-dozen artists worked on these eight issues and there are some definite color issues in my version. I can only hope they will be improved in the Absolute version (which I still can’t afford, of course).
Beneath it all, the interpersonal drama is entertaining. It’s great to see the Endless interact – Gaiman famously said when asked if he regarded the Endless to be a “dysfunctional family” than he’d never seen a “functional family.” As archetypes, they’re a lot of fun. The various gods from various cultures are treated playfully and Gaiman gives you credit for being smart.
(I love Chapter 4 with Charles Rowland and Edwin Paine. Gaiman writes about childhood like no one else can, capturing how overwhelming and scary it can be.)
I don’t think Seasons of Mist quite lives up to the “big” story it wanted to be, but it’s epic and entertaining nonetheless. While Dream Country is where The Sandman found its voice, Seasons of Mist is where it found its pacing. It could be a medium to tell big, unwieldy stories than dragged in every culture it could. I think, as a smart teenager, that’s what I loved the most about The Sandman. I think that’s still what I love the most about it.
(And I may have used Hob’s toast a few times while signing yearbooks in high school.)