The Sandman, Vol. 9 & 10 (“The Kindly Ones” & “The Wake”) by Neil Gaiman

The Kindly Ones (1993)

The longest Sandman volume and an important one, where all the various plot-threads, side-tracks and set-ups of the previous 8 volumes merge towards a conclusion. Well, most, in any case. Characters from earlier stories show up again, like Rose Walker, Lucifer, Cluracan and Loki. In this volume, the interpersonal coldness of Dream catches up with him, and his distancing from human affairs. More and more, the story starts to resemble an old Greek tragedy now. The three Fates, also known as the Kindly Ones, make sure that it all ends in tears.

In fact, so many things come together that half of it you hadn’t even expected to be relevant. My big question is whether Gaiman had worked it all out this way from the start, as the experience of reading the series feels very much like a collection of many individual tales which Gaiman came up with in the moment. I think that the answer is a little bit of both. He took the mountain of material that he had created, and put it all together in surprising ways. The shape of a story can be made out when we look back at the whole of it, but also many loose ends that stick out.

I did not like the artwork this time. It looks too simple and stylised in an annoying way with too many blocky faces and flattened perspectives. My guess is that since Gaiman wrote a rather long story this time, DC needed an artist who could produce a lot of pages in a shorter time, and this is the result. I have to say, none of the artwork for The Sandman has impressed me over its entire run. But I don’t have a good feeling for what is industry standard for the imprint that The Sandman was part of. Anyway, all this comes down to taste. The story is strong enough to enjoy once I accepted the artwork.

Sandman himself remained a bit of a mystery all the way through. He’s a hard one to like. His character has depths but his development is subtle, where slight variations in his stoic behavior are telling. I said above that he’s cold and inhuman, and sometimes he is and sometimes he isn’t, just like dreams are sometimes pleasant and sometimes cruel. He himself would say that he is too occupied with his responsibilities to care about others but on some occasions he simply doesn’t seem to understand others. In any case, he’s always interesting, and the focus is on him in every scene he appears in. He’s moody and depressed from the start, and I think that Gaiman slowly filled in the reasons why.

The story itself remained a bit vague for me. Dream has set a lot of things in motion throughout the story, and there are some explicit reasons for what happened at the end of this volume, but many of Dream’s preparations predate those final reasons. It’s like he always had prepared himself for this conclusion, and his sister tells him so. And he has always been more or less the same, except that his lengthy imprisonment in the first volume made him tired, maybe pushed him over the edge. That’s why that was the start of this saga, the turning point in his existence. 

The Wake (1995)

For this final volume of the story, the artwork is suddenly very detailed, with a stronger sense of realism. It is as if here, at the end of the story, a veil has been lifted and we get a glimpse of what all these characters really looked like, in reality as it were. As if, in fact, we are waking from a dream. Morpheus’s entire journey felt a bit like a dream.

A solemn and beautiful ending to the story. Heartfelt moments are there for many characters, and some nice fitting endings to emotional journeys. While this is one of the best volumes in my opinion, it highlights one aspect of the series that I always found a bit puzzling, and that is Gaiman’s propensity to have so many women fall in love with Morpheus, which always struck me as part of Gaiman’s hero fantasy in making Morpheus so similar to himself. None of that raised emotion in me, but the journeys of characters like Matthew were more compelling.

The series ends with three standalone stories which, while undoubtedly are very nicely told stories, endanger the series with the syndrome of too many endings. Their purpose is to show that the world goes on. The ending of one age is the start of a new one. For me, they were unnecessary, because the characters of these stories weren’t all that important for the saga. Oh well… it’s the nature of the Sandman series to be expansive.

Well, that was it. I liked this series a lot and I would certainly recommend it. Many of the stories were impressive. 

This entry was posted in Books, Comics and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to The Sandman, Vol. 9 & 10 (“The Kindly Ones” & “The Wake”) by Neil Gaiman

  1. Pingback: The Sandman, Vol. 7 & 8 (“Brief Lives” & “World’s End”) by Neil Gaiman | A Sky of Books and Movies

  2. Bookstooge says:

    Man, that first picture you have up really IS blocky. It reminds me of a sunday paper comic strip and not at all of a graphic novel.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, both the panels and the art as well. Many faces with straight edges and hard angles. Very stylised, but not a style I like. It looks cheap. What I prefer is flowing ink work, like the Bone series, or art that looks like a lot of effort went into it, like miniature paintings.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s