Continuing the BOMC episodes on The Sandman, next is The Sandman Volume 4: Season of Mists
, which collects The Sandman #21-28, if you are old school and breaking out your singles.
For those reading along, get your comments in soon, as I understand this episode is meant to record around 1/25.
What did you think? Add to the discussion here, or post questions you would like the guys to consider in their discussion.
Season of Mists was that moment for me in Sandman, the point when I realised that there were themes, bits of story, and doomed relationships that Gaiman was going to weave through the ongoing series. I guess that was probably obvious from A Doll's House onwards but the introduction of the other members of the Endless in this book really made me sit up and take notice.
This is also one of the two books in the series that I would lend out to my non-comic book reading female friends who were curious about Sandman (Doll's House was the other) and was pretty much the gateway drug for the entire series. To this day this is the only comic book series a few of my friends have read, and they mention this volume as the one that got them interested in reading the entire story.
With this collection, Gaiman & co. expand the world of the Sandman far beyond its initial DCU bounds (which, with a few exceptions, had been shucked off a while back). There is a wider world to explore, one introduced through the many pantheons of gods showcased in this story. With Odin and Bast and Choronzon and all the other puissant beings coming to the Dreaming, we finally get a better understanding of what it means for Morpheus to be the "Dream King." This title becomes manifest through the traditions and formalities utilized by these awesome (in the traditional sense) beings, exhibiting a reverence and respect that is reinforced by the beings displaying it.
In re-reading this, one of the things that stood out for me was the way in which Gaiman uses language in this story. Everything is very formal, with social rules to be followed, and within these feudal constructs a certain reverence for language and its beauty is retained, for the most part. The dialogue feels of an older time - from the announcement of Morpheus's intention to visit Hell to the discussions with the many gods about the disbursement of the Key to Hell - and yet, it also feels contemporaneous, so as not to be off-putting to readers (I would guess). It's a fine balancing act that Gaiman manages superbly. I think it all falls down to his use of a more current lexicon fitted into an older grammatical sentence structure, though not having my copy to hand may mean I am misremembering. Anyway, this is one of the things I loved about this book.
Kelley Jones's art is another thing to love about the book. His almost caricaturish figures work well in such an over-the-top plot (Lucifer abdicates Hell and a host of different gods vie for its ownership). The way he draws Thor is wonderful, and a perfect visual metaphor for the thunder god, and the billowing cloak that embodies Morpheus is another wonderful visualization bordering on metaphor. I don't know how much thought went into it, on Jones's part, and how much may have been in the script, but it all works very well. It's also impressive how he manages to infuse his style with more traditional styles when drawing the various gods, most especially showcased in the visualization of Susano-o-no-Mikoto, particularly when he is isolated, and Morpheus as he shifts his guise for the various meetings with these deities. I was lucky enough to meet Jones, at a show here in Maine, shortly after the hardcover of this came out. Despite being an Oakland A's fan, he was a pretty good guy.
Something else I appreciated, in reading this again, was how much of the final act of Sandman is set up in these pages, roughly 50 issues prior to the finale, depending on where it falls in the storyline. I don't want to give much away, for those who haven't read it all yet, but there are some very significant choices made by Morpheus - with Loki, with Hippolyta Hall's baby - that prove to be crucial for him, down the line.
Final thoughts -
I met Matt Wagner at a show, a number of years ago, and got him to sign my copy of Season of Mists. He shared with me that when he received the script, which he was excited about, he was disappointed to find that Morpheus was nowhere to be found in the story. Wagner asked for Gaiman to either include, or allow him to include, that image of Morpheus in the opening of his story, so he could have the chance to actually draw the dream king.
Mike Dringenberg: If it weren't for him, I might consider Kelley Jones to be the definitive Sandman artist. But Dringenberg's work is, for me, the seminal delineation of Morpheus. I just love how he draws the Sandman, as well as all the other characters, and having him draw the opening and closing chapters of this book is like icing on the cake. Beautiful, beautiful work.
Look forward to the geeks' thoughts.
I have since go on to read all but the last two numbered volumes of The Sandman and thought it was fantastic. The only other volumes that I would place in the same league as Season of Mists is The Doll's House and The Dream Hunters.
On a side note, this is also the last volume that Malcolm Jones III inked. Not only was he the best inker on the Sandman series, I feel that he was one of the best inkers in comics. It was pretty upsetting to hear of his passing.