I have been reading The Sandman graphic novel series by Neil Gaiman since the beginning of the year. Volume 4 that I will be reviewing below is the collection of issues 21 through 28. Of which issues 21 and 28 are considered a prologue and epilogue to this particular story. The issues were originally published from 1990 to 1991 and feature artists such as Mike Dringenberg, Kelley Jones and Malcolm Jones III. With Season of Mists author Neil Gaiman returns to the style of the first volume by placing the King of Dreams – Morpheus – at the center of the story. In doing so he remedies the principal of deficiencies of the volumes 2 and 3: The Doll’s House and Dream Country. And that is the frequent and lengthy absence of the titular character – Morpheus. Season of Mists covers Morpheus almost exclusively, with only one issue seeing his absence.
So what is Season of Mists all about? In a nutshell Morpheus attempts to undo a great harm he committed ten thousand years before. From previous issues we know the Dreamlord was involved with a human woman named Nada, who was a Queen. He offered her to become a goddess and live eternity with him but she refused. Feeling spurned he dammed her to Hell. Morpheus’s family gathers after the oldest of Endless – Destiny – orders them to do so. At this family reunion two of Morpheus’s siblings call him out on his mistake and so starts a quest. To free Nada from Hell Morpheus must venture to the realm of Lucifer, with whom he had beef in the first volume. However upon arrival in Hell for their confrontation Morpheus finds it practically empty. Lucifer has emptied Hell of its dammed souls and demon kind and gives the key to Morpheus.
Lucifer as a catalyst
This unexpected turn of events appears a blessing at first as Morpheus feared he could not defeat God’s favorite fallen son. However, a plethora of demons and deities soon ask and threaten Morpheus into handing over the key to Hell. Being the amiable host that he is he invites them all to his Kingdom. This includes Susanoo-no-Mikoto from Japanese mythology, Thor, his father Odin as well as Loki from Asgard. Then there is Bast from ancient Egypt as well as Azazel, a demon Morpheus has sparred with before.
All makes their case and all their cases are interesting. Some offer Morpheus a way to make good on past mistakes while others obviously would prevent future strive, but he can choose only one. Observing the gathering are the angels Duma and Remiel. Before Morpheus makes his choice God orders Duma to take up the mantel of Lord of Hell. For without Hell, Heaven has no meaning. Remiel decides to accompany Duma.
That leaves Morpheus to fight Azazel. He manages to defeat the latter handily and frees Nada. One by one Morpheus says goodbye to his guests but plenty of farewells suggest future story arcs. His involvement with Nada also ends. She can forgive Morpheus but she decides not to stay with him. Morpheus ensures she is birthed into a human baby and will always be allowed to return to the realm of dreaming. The epilogue shows Lucifer enjoying a sunset on the beaches of Perth Australia, contemplating his new found freedom. Meanwhile Duma and Remiel instigate new rules for governing Hell. Now punishment will serve the purpose of redeeming those souls confined to Hell, much to the chagrin of the dammed souls.
Season of Mists has an interesting theme. No matter how live changing an event may be, the past will never let us free. In these issues Morpheus has to make an important decision regarding the future of Hell, now that Lucifer has abandoned it. Yet, what he decides is ultimately surprising and characteristically of Morpheus, the hardest path. Neil Gaiman illustrates this theme with the fifth chapter of this volume entitled “In Which the Dead Return; and Charles Rowland Concludes His Education“. It is a familiarly macabre story that illustrates the impact of our world when Hell closes its gates. To top it off, the two principal characters: Charles and Edwin are never seen again.
Finally we see Morpheus again
That said, I am glancing over the most exciting aspects of Season of Mists. The gathering of the Endless, Morpheus’s family. We have already met Death, but Destiny, Desire, Despair and Delirium are new. With the first three totally kicking ass. It is Desire’s taunts that sends Morpheus on his quest to free Nada. Thematically this fits the purpose of the story. After the first three issues we now see Morpheus with a new purpose after regaining his freedom.
The gathering of the Endless also makes it clear there are plenty of problems within the family. This issues makes frequent references to their brother Destruction who has left his realm hundreds of years before. The ancient deity Bast claims to know where Destruction is, but Morpheus declines to find out. However, it is inevitable that there will be a follow-up to this story thread. I for one cannot wait to find out.
Soon I will start reading volume 5: A Game of You and I will post my review thereafter. If you are interested in reading The Sandman yourself but you don’t have the time, or are limited by funds then there is an exciting new possibility. As of a few days ago The Sandman is now also available as an audio book on Audible. This covers the first three volumes: Preludes and Nocturnes, The Doll’s House and Dream Country. Voiced by an extensive cats that includes James McAvoy, Kat Dennings, Taron Egerton, Andy Serkis, Bebe Neuwirth and Michael Sheen. Reviews have been highly favorable. The audio book costs $ 26.99 or 1 credit.