Review: Sandman: Brief Lives

Sandman: Brief Lives written by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Jill Thompson and Vince Locke, ISBN: 1-56389-138-7

Ages ago I stumbled across Art Spiegelman's Maus, which was wonderful, and I started looking further for comics that dealt with adult stories. I read McCloud's great Understanding Comics which showed me that it wasn't a fluke, that comic artists really were approaching the medium with adult sensibilities and trying to tell meaningful emotional and engrossing stories that transcended the superhero genre. I'd heard of the Sandman series, but I'd never gotten far enough in the Comics stores with their boxes and boxes of slim back issues and geeky clerks who wanted more superheroes.

But recently I was in Ashland Oregon and stumbled into a comics shop that was none of those things and found a full story, several issues of the comic, in one complete book. And I opened it, and was engrossed.

I think I did a fairly good job of following the various mythologies he draws from, although the afterword by Peter Straub sent me back looking for more tie-ins and in-jokes that I've undoubtedly missed, but simply from the exploration of a new medium this is a wonderful experience. There isn't much text, yet it takes longer per page to read. The graphics range from spare to intense, each appropriate to its place. The story is something of a classical tragedy, yet (and I don't think I'm giving anything away with this) the tragic character doesn't die.

I've since read the last in the series, which brought much more of the story together, but even on its own this is a wonderful and compelling excursion into a medium which most of us aren't familiar with.

Friday, October 16th, 1998