BOOK REVIEW – NEIL GAIMAN – THE SANDMAN 4 SEASON OF DREAMS.  1992 DC / VERTIGO

 

One of the best of the Sandman graphic novels, but when the whole series is the best choosing the best of them is near impossible.

 

When the Fates of Greek mythology visit Destiny, Dream (Orpheus, the Sandman) is summoned to a meeting of his brothers and sisters, The Endless. He is told off for sending a former lover to Hell, thousands of years before. When he had rejected her, she committed suicide, and he had left her to suffer in Hell for it. Realizing that he was wrong, Morpheus embarks on an Orpheus type journey to Hell to confront Lucifer.  Morpheus expects a fight, and he has the potential to lose despite his own immense power, but Lucifer behaves very differently than expected. He has decided to quit his role as ruler of Hell altogether. He kicks the dead and dammed out altogether, and leaves Morpheus the keys to the empty kingdom.

 

Morpheus must now decide whether to rule Hell himself, making of it what he will, or surrender it to others. There are many who seek to control Hell, including Odin and Loki. Azazel, a powerful demon once usurped by Lucifer wants it back, and he has Morpheus’s lover as a hostage and bargaining chip too. Also, the angels from Heaven have their own sights on events, and their own agenda. The one person who doesn’t want it is Lucifer who has settled on sitting on Australian beaches to admire the sunset.

 

As Morpheus decides what to do with Hell amidst threats, intrigue and the demands of the guests who seek the key, the dammed returned to the World. Ghosts haunt an old public school where many of them were educated before dying in the Great War and later battles. A young boy from today is trapped in the school, surrounded by bullies from the Tom Brown’s schooldays era. His only friend is the ghost of a boy sacrificed by the bullies while alive when they tried to sell their souls to an indifferent Satan. When the live boy dies, and Death (Morpheus’s sister) arrives to take him, he refuses to go, and runs away from school with his best friend, the other ghost. Death promises to give chase one day, but when the story ends she has not yet done so.

 

A powerful, deeply symbolic high concept epic of incredible power.

 

Arthur Chappell

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