Revisit: The Sandman: Brief Lives

Brief Lives

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Brief Lives is my favorite. It always has been and it continues to be.

It’s the most straightforward and satisfying of all The Sandman volumes. It reads like there was actual planning involved – there’s no making it up as they go. Neil Gaiman’s writing manages to be both funny and dark, dramatic and playful. And while there are a lot of wonderful artists who’ve worked on The Sandman, Jill Thompson suits this story perfectly.

I love Brief Lives. I have no criticism for it. Some of that is because I have much too much affection for the book – I’ve read it the most and so it’s very familiar to me. It also has my absolute favorite line in the entire series – Ruby turning to Dream and saying “You’re a scary son of a bitch, mister. Cute as hell, but scary.” I don’t think there exists a more accurate description of Dream anywhere.

There are so many wonderful scenes. Delirium is infinitely quotable – “But they’re not flowers, they’re puppies” – and Dream making it rain so he can stand in it after being dumped is just so perfect. We have a talking dog, who seems to talk for no other reason than he does. I love the interactions between all The Endless – I think this is the point where The Sandman mythology is cemented.

It also has the most tragic, heartbreaking panel I’ve ever seen in comics. Oh, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

I can’t say my overall feelings for the book have really changed, but I saw somethings differently. I know there were some complaints about Delirium in this one – some felt she was too cute, too charming and didn’t quite represent the sad darkness she had when we’ve seen her before.

But I disagree. Delirium’s tragedy remains. Here, sure, she’s having fun so she’s more upbeat, but she’s naively self-centered. Delirium can’t think about anyone but herself. She asks Dream the word for the “moment when you realize that you’ve actually forgotten how it felt to make love to somebody you really liked a long time ago” while Dream’s still getting over being dumped. Her reaction to Ruby’s death is “This means I get to drive.” She can care about others, want to help others, but ultimately, Delirium’s world is just about Delirium.

I think that’s the reason why teenage girls connected with Delirium, even if they don’t realize why. I know I did. She’s in between girlhood and adulthood. Teen girls are busy trying to figure out where they fit in their constantly-shifting worlds. They don’t have much time for anything else.

I honestly don’t have much else to write about Brief Lives. I can keep telling you how much I like it and keep offering examples, but I think that would get boring quickly.

Reading Brief Lives was a little bittersweet, though. Partially because of the memories it brought back (like how I traded my friend Marc the softcover for his hardcover. Hi, Marc!) and because I know I’m getting close to the end. I don’t want The Sandman to be over yet.

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