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The Sandman: Endless Nights by Neil Gaiman

The Sandman: Endless Nights

by Neil Gaiman, Glenn Fabry (Illustrator), Milo Manara (Illustrator), Miguelanxo Prado (Illustrator), Frank Quitely (Illustrator)3 more, P. Craig Russel (Illustrator), Bill Sienkiewicz (Illustrator), Barron Storey (Illustrator)

Other authors: Chris Chuckry (Colorist / Separator), Lovern Kindzierski (Colorist / Separator), Todd Klein (Letterer), Dave McKean (Cover artist)

Series: The Sandman (12), The Sandman: Death (Short Story 2003)

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Like Gaiman's other short story collections, Endless Nights has its share of ups and downs. Each of its seven stories are quick snapshots into the Endless' everyday, and each one sticks around just long enough to give some insight into individual personalities. Some are connected, most aren't. Some aren't even stories, but descriptions, ideas, atmospheres. It's a nice idea, but certain members of the Endless aren't exactly known for their character, and some of these stories subsequently don't do much to change that.

Death's story, 'Death & Venice,' makes for a good character to start with, but I found her story a little too dark. To some extent, it's a retread of other Death stories filtered through the tragedy of 9/11. The narration carries the melancholic musings of an American soldier on leave in Venice. He's remembering his visits as a child, his brush with the eternally-beautiful Death then, and his frequent brushes as a soldier now.

Overlapping his story is Death's story: A part of her rests outside a door barred to time. Behind this door, if it could be opened, one would find a men and women frozen in a single day, reliving an unabashed series of vulgarities and vices for eternity. They're puppets all the same. They feel safe from Death's clutches, but she'll always be outside, waiting all the same. The end result makes for one of Gaiman's darkest stories.

P. Craig Russell's art is excellent. While I enjoy his work, I don't quite get the overwhelming praise it garners. His capture of Death is akin to a Saturday Morning Cartoon: Clean, colorful, yet dark and grey. She rests somewhere between the bright, colorful world beyond the gate, and the gloomy tint of a post-9/11 reality.

Only Milo Manara should take the reins on a story about Desire. 'What I've Tasted of Desire' offers a distant look at the Endless' influence in days long gone, about a pre-Roman woman who has a keen insight--if you can call it that--into the game Desire plays. Manara's artwork is nothing but a rush of phallic energy and the sexualization of everything. His women are unreal (as one expects of Manara), but that's image Desire draws out of us.

Kara, our hero, has more in common with Desire than meets the eye. When she receives Desire's personal guidance to win the heart of the town hunk, there's a thin line strung between whether her prepared hubris was always there, or something from Desire drew itself into her in the moment. Regardless, she carries the bizarre understanding of the wolfishness she desires and what it means for her. Her story of winning over her lug seems to venerate that very wolfishness that Desire draws out of folks--and she plays it to her advantage, manipulating her family, her enemies, and the readers. She ends her story as she expected to, getting what she wanted.

I didn't like Dream's story.

'The Heart of the Star' (illus. Miguelanxo Prado) was the most comic-book among the stories, with sly DC Universe references knotted into the plot to create continuity with DC's superheroes. It gives it a colorful atmosphere akin to comic books of the '70s and '80s. This is Endless Night's ode to the classic comic, which is to say: Not my thing. The DC Universe being crammed into the Sandman lore is responsible, I think, for the series' lowest points--most of them early in its run, before Gaiman cemented his style or his success.

This tale is set long before our sun had even formed, when the Endless were much younger. They're meeting with the stars themselves in an impossible architecture to discuss future plans. They're hardly recognizable as themselves. Death's appearance is merely the cameo of succinct professionalism one would expect of her name--nothing like the pert cheer she resonates in recent millennia. Despair is the first Despair, similar to our current sister, but not quite. Destruction's playing with explosive energy, suggesting a creative role outside his implied expertise. Delirium appears, for the first and only time until 2013's Overture, as Delight. The difference between them is barely noticeable, with her naivete a symptom of instability. Morpheus is...happy. This is the story of what makes him unhappy, and the beginnings of his sibling rivalry with Desire.

The impossible gap between stories allows for personalities to be entirely unrecognizable, but its brief length (20 pgs.) to rush billions of years of character development makes it feel more akin to fan-fiction than canon. That's a problem. Desire's prank turning Morpheus into the Dream of the Sandman's first issue happens in the span of a couple minutes.

One interesting aspect, though, is this tale explains why Morpheus seems to devote so much time to Earth and humanity when his reign is implied as temporally and spatially infinite, itself an explanation for why readers found so much to care about with the original series.

Despair's 'Fifteen Portraits of Despair' illustrates a significant character issue with the Endless, while still being one of the most powerful stories in the collection. If anyone could bee expected to tell a good yarn about Despair of the Endless, it should be Gaiman. This is not that yarn, or even a yarn, for that matter. This is a series of prose-poem vignettes interspersed with chaotic, unsettling artwork by Barron Storey and long-time collaborator Dave McKean that explores the emotion of despair felt at its worst.

The vignettes in Despair's collection are successful at pulling the reader into the feeling of despair itself, deeply. Some of the prose-poems and artwork were more abstruse than others, and some longer than others. Some dig deep to evoke a scenario, like that of a failing artist or--the worst for me--a caretaker of large family of pets knowingly leaving them to starve to death and doing nothing about it, only admitting off-hand to regret and unhappiness. Others are emotional snapshots in a handful of lines, with characters or situations difficult to discern. While I really enjoyed this series of vignettes, it did nothing to add to Despair's character, simply playing off a single-note she was mostly known for.

'Going Inside' with Delirium poses a similar format to Despair's story through its abstract artwork (courtesy of Bill Sienkiewicz). It tells a story, however--but in the scatter-brained, cute-but-dark way you'd expect of Delirium of the Endless. It's jolting being paired back-to-back with Despair's story, and it would have been preferential to get a stylistic break between them.

Delirium's story is a fragmented adventure into the minds of the delirious to rescue our Endless sister. Delirium is back, lovable as ever, but she's in hiding again. She's retreated into the mind of a young catatonic woman following an implied traumatic experience. Despite being of the Endless, Delirium is often written as vulnerable, with her siblings needing to look after her, and because of this, it's unclear if she was hurt in the same way or simply identified with the catatonic's state. Trying to follow Daniel and Barnabas' rescue mission filtered through unhinged perceptions is exhausting, but rewarding.

The penultimate story is a return to comfortable storytelling technique with help from artist Glenn Fabry. Destruction's 'On the Peninsula' is a feel-good existential romp if ever Sandman could have one. It carries some parallels to Death's story, including a haunted narrator in a foreign land, exploration of an isolated ruin, musings of melancholy and depression and the need for personal revelation, &c.

It stars a post-doc, Rachel, invited by her sleazy professor to help a government-funded dig that promises to change the world. The future has appeared on a European peninsula, buried and by all accounts ancient. Delirium's trouble suggested from 'Going Inside' has effected shock-waves through reality (including the upbeat tone of this tale!), which her and Destruction are now overseeing as fellow tourists. Rachel shares an immediate connection with Destruction, evident through her morbid dreams that drove her to their meeting. Her new-found ties with Destruction and his sister allow her a position outside of her funding camp, and with his help she's able to find herself and move on, leaving the power of the future in the Endless' hands.

This story shows a hopeful reunion with Destruction, as well, who left the series willfully before. Since Morpheus' passing, he's evidently reconnected with his family, and taken up his mantle of Destruction again. I'd wager this very story is about his initial re-awakening as Destruction of the Endless.

'Endless Nights' ends the collection with a prose-poem, a fitting epilogue dedicated to the eldest of the Endless, Destiny. It's well-written, absorbing, and beautifully-illustrated by Frank Quitely; but like Despair's story, it illustrates the problems of giving each of the Endless their own tales. The sole unoriginal member of the Endless, Destiny was a rescued product of the prior decades--and a great inclusion among the Endless early in the series. He was subsequently the most difficult character to work with, and by the end he remained a single-note stoic with nothing to his character but the name.

Instead of combating Destiny's negative stereotype, 'Endless Nights' embraces it. It's a meditation on what destiny means, even if it's a little contradictory and nebulous in its definition--just how destiny should be. His book holds the universe, and he can read the fate of any person, any being, any atom, but the wonder of humanity is that our destinies are ours to write. ( )
  rickyrickyricky | Nov 21, 2015 |
The Basics

A collection of stories taking place in the Sandman universe, each focusing on a member of the Endless.

My Thoughts

This is currently the last of the Sandman stories as written by Neil Gaiman. It’s not essential to the main plot to read these, but for a fan, it’s a satisfying read and worth adding to the collection. If you have a favorite Endless, chances are they’re given their moment to shine here. Even Destiny, with his cool-but-one-note ways.

For my part, Desire has always been my favorite, and his/her story was exactly in keeping with the spirit of Desire. And that’s the key. Even if the figure themselves is featured briefly, the spirit of what they are, who they are, is well on display. Despair, for instance, is more of a series of vignettes regarding her nature, and it fits.

Just how much they run the gamut as characters is exhibited here, as well. It’s obvious enough when they’re together being very different among themselves, but there’s a deeper level to it here. For example, Death’s story is gentle and playful with a sad twinge, yet Delirium’s story is disjointed and bizarre. The gaps between each of them serves to make their character development seem more solid. Even the artists’s separate approaches drive this home. And all the art is, of course, beautiful.

If you’re a fan, certainly read this. No matter who it is among them that fascinates you, it will deliver.

Final Rating

5/5 ( )
  Nickidemus | Sep 18, 2014 |
This books contains seven stories, each dealing with one of the siblings known as "the Endless." The Endless are a creation from Neil Gaiman's The Sandman comic series, and this book is an add-on to that series. Unfortunately for me, I inter-library loaned this book via my library not paying enough attention to realize that I selected the final volume of the series rather than the first (a doh! moment if there ever was one). So for me, this was an odd introduction to these characters and their universe. That being said, the book's structure of simple short stories made it easy enough to follow along without feeling in the least bit lost (although I'm sure knowledge of the whole series would probably have enriched the reading experience). Gaiman's brief introduction gives the most important details, reminding/introducing readers to the fact that the Endless are simply there - they are not gods, he asserts, but ever-fixed markers of humanity. In other words, the Endless are universal emotions and events we cannot avoid - death, dreams, despair, desire, etc., although I would argue he's wrong then about destiny being among their number.

As a product, this is an absolutely gorgeous book. Separating each chapter are these beautiful photographs that carry a mask theme tying together the various components. Each chapter is illustrated by a different artist of renown, who brings his own touch to the story at hand. Most remarkably, in my opinion, was the expressionistic style brought to the chapter dedicated to Despair. The story is titled "Fifteen Portraits of Despair," providing short vignettes of people at their worst moments. Obviously this is not an easy chapter to read, but it had the most emotional impact of any in the book. The darkly deep illustrations served to further hone that point, and they are worthy of any art gallery's walls. Being the most artistic and least like a comic book with such illustrations, this chapter seems (based on other reviews) to be the unpopular one, but I thought it was the highlight of the book.

The other chapters deal less with the emotions evoked by the Endless then by short snippets of events in their lives. An early dalliance for Dream is the subject of one chapter; a conquest for Death in another; and so on. As such, they don't really say much in my opinion or add much by way of character development. This book seems designed more as something for supercharged fans to sink their teeth in after having spent years sans any new Sandman material. Die-hard lovers of the original series no doubt love to read some more about their favorite characters but as a stand-alone comic, this book is just so-so. It's a fairly entertaining read and it's short story nature means you can skip ahead at any point without losing anything; for that reason, this makes a quick escapist read, so long as you're not too worried about delving into the darker side of humanity. ( )
  sweetiegherkin | Nov 23, 2013 |
Great artwork. Good stories. A lot of nipples. ( )
  h_d | Jul 1, 2013 |
Endless Nights was written years after the Sandman series ended - Gaiman returns his characters and provides a story for each of the 7 Endless.

I liked some stories better than others, and for the first time, I think my 4th star in my rating for this book is solely because of the artwork. It's a little more interesting and experimental than what was in the rest of the series - Despair's and Delerium's stories are really noteable in this aspect. While their stories weren't my favorite (my beloved Delerium was barely in hers!), I spent quite a bit of time just examining and admiring the art.

I also enjoyed the peek back in time when Delerium was Delight and Despair was her first aspect of herself. The small references to the worlds of the Green Lantern and Superman were nice touches. ( )
  BrookeAshley | May 23, 2013 |
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» Add other authors (5 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Neil Gaimanprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Fabry, GlennIllustratormain authorall editionsconfirmed
Manara, MiloIllustratormain authorall editionsconfirmed
Prado, MiguelanxoIllustratormain authorall editionsconfirmed
Quitely, FrankIllustratormain authorall editionsconfirmed
Russel, P. CraigIllustratormain authorall editionsconfirmed
Sienkiewicz, BillIllustratormain authorall editionsconfirmed
Storey, BarronIllustratormain authorall editionsconfirmed
Chuckry, ChrisColorist / Separatorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Kindzierski, LovernColorist / Separatorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Klein, ToddLetterersecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
McKean, DaveCover artistsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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Here, where the darkness closes over me, like canal waters or the grave, I tell this story.
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Book description
Contains "Death and Venice," "What I've Tasted of Desire," "The Heart of a Star," "Fifteen Portraits of Despair," "Going Inside," "On the Peninsula" and "Endless Nights."
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 140120113X, Paperback)

Written by Neil Gaiman; Art by P. Craig Russell, Milo Manara, Bill Sienkiewicz, Miguelanxo Prado, Barron Storey, Glenn Fabry, and Frank Quitely; painted cover and book design by Dave McKean; Cover by Dave McKean Joined by a dream-team of artists from around the world, Neil Gaiman - the Hugo Award-winning, New York Times best-selling author of American Gods and the children's book Coraline - returned to the beloved characters he made famous for THE SANDMAN: ENDLESS NIGHTS, the comics event of 2003. Now this landmark work is available in a beautiful softcover edition. Alternately haunting, bittersweet, erotic and nightmarish, the seven stories in this book - one for each of the Endless siblings, each illustrated by a different artist - reveal strange secrets and surprising truths. In addition to the seven tales of the Endless, THE SANDMAN: ENDLESS NIGHTS includes a biography section in the spirit of the Sandman collections (designed by Dave McKean) and a summary of each volume in the Sandman Library.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:08:15 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Presents a collection of seven graphic stories that feature the character known as "The Sandman" who rules over humans as they sleep.

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