Friday, May 1, 2009

The Sandman

Have you ever cried after waking from a dream?

Or have you ever waken up crying?

I most certainly have, particularly when I was a child. There are a few reasons for that to happen: you could have been in a nightmare and you just wanted to get out of there; you didn't know it was a dream and you just wanted to get back to a familiar place; or you realized you were in a very good dream, and you didn't want to wake up from it...

My time with Sandman has been one of the most well spent of my life. I began reading it when the brazilian hardcover edition was released by Conrad in 2005, if I recall correctly. I hadn't even heard of the series by that time, and bought the first volume after a very intense recommendation from my friend Jefferson. I enjoyed Preludes and Nocturnes, but didn't become a fan. After a while, I bought The Doll's House and Dream Country in a bargain, but for some reason never read them. Until February, 2009.

-- Notice: there might be a little spoiler or two of the stories ahead. Nothing major is said, but some things might lead to some conclusions. Read at your own risk. --

In February I read P&N again and liked it even more, noticing some subtleties and beginning to see how marvelous this universe created by Neil Gaiman was. I then read Doll's House, which was brilliant, and Dream Country, which wasn't as good as the previous but still excellent. At that point I was becoming a fan, and bought the next four volumes all at once.

Volume 4, Season of Mists, was the turning point that made me admit I was in love with this series. The story, scenario and characters of this arch are just beyond words. I couldn't believe someone had created such a rich mythology by bringing together several others from all different cultures, from the Japanese deities to the Norse gods. They were all there, together, and it felt so real, so amazing, that it really must have been a vivid dream, in which I was so lucky to be.

After Season of Mists, I was just addicted to this story. I dreamt of it. And even though the next four volumes, A Game of You, Fables and Reflections, Brief Lives and Worlds' End weren't as epic as Season of Mists, they each still managed to have their particular characteristics that never stopped entertaining me for a second.

Volume 9, The Kindly Ones, begins and ends with similar scenes. The journey through the book is one of suffering, yet of redemption. You know what's going to happen, and you can't do anything about it. It really saddened me, but as I kept reading I came to see that what would happen was not only necessary, but innevitable. All our actions have consequences, and even when we know what they are, sometimes we just can't turn our backs and walk away.

The Kindly Ones is the longest arch in The Sandman series and in it, Gaiman managed to bring all the loose ends from the previous archs into a knot, a perfect knot that ties the whole series for its wonderful end, that begins in this volume and ends in the next one, The Wake.

The Wake was so wonderful and so magnificent, and so very sad, that it made me cry. It was a perfect conclusion to a perfect series, and I don't see how different it could have been. This was the end of the dream, the end of a Dream, and I didn't want it to end. I wanted to get back to it, and have it with me forever. But that would not be possible. And that made me shed a few tears.

The story in Sandman could only be so good with great characters. Gaiman created one of the best comic characters of all time, starting of course with the superb Morpheus, the anthropomorphic representation of Dream. He starts the series with an arrogant persona, but throughout the series he grows to be a more caring and likeable character. At some points he even shows compassion, affection and friendship towards others.

His kingdom, The Dreaming, is where everyone goes when they're dreaming. It's a place that reflects one aspect of Morpheus, and therefore changes with him. The castle in the "heart" of The Dreaming is where his throne is, and where we can find some other excellent characters, like Lucien the librarian, who catalogs all the books ever dreamt of, Mervyn the pumpkin, an employee who's the greatest comic relief of the series, and Matthew, a raven who's usually by Morpheus side and is the closest thing to a friend Dream ever had.

Dream is one of the Seven Endless, brothers and sisters who are older than men and gods. His two older brothers are Destiny, the eldest, and Death, the best of the Endless. After Dream came Destruction, Despair, Desire and Delight, who became Delirium.

Death is by far the best of the Endless. She's always beautiful and always cheerful, providing aid to her brother Dream whenever she can. She's probably my favourite character of the series, and it was wonderful every time she showed up. Death is said to be present twice in one's lifetime: when one is born, and when one passes away. This also happens in the story archs, for she is there in Preludes and Nocturnes, helping Morpheus when he is "reborn" and at The Wake, when it is time for things to move on.

Of the others, Delirium is the one I enjoyed the most following, She's so naïve and lost in her own thoughts, and it's a delight to see her talking to others or doing what she likes best, turning things into cute little flying fish that she can admire. She has a main role in Brief Lives and Gaiman lets us bond with her, even for a short while, and it's a great experience.

There is so much more I could say about Sandman and how it has become my favourite comic series of all times, surpassing Watchmen, but I'll keep it at this for now. It's such a rich world, with so much to explore and show. Gaiman is a true master of storytelling, and justice was made every time he received a literary award, especially those that didn't involve only comics. Sandman is a novel, a book told not only with words, but with beautiful images, and it deserves every praise ever said about it.

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