Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Review: Worlds' End

Worlds' End Worlds' End by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

For much of the Sandman series, the idea of dream is that it’s a space an individual goes to. There’s a collective sense to it in the sense that Morpheus is always waiting, but it’s still in the nature of a single person going on a journey.

The striking and generally successful notion throughout this collection is that it’s possible for us to have collective dreams, that people together create imaginaries that have particular power. That’s true in the way so many different characters from different worlds and times in the framing story find themselves at the inn at the end of the world. It’s also true in most of the individual episodes.

My favorite – and one of my favorites from the entire series – is the first, the one in which a man stumbles into the dream of an entire city. It’s eerie and striking. (It helps that it has some of the strongest illustration of any of the series’ work.) Robert falls into a space in the city he’d never known before, and then he finds himself in an almost empty place, one that suggests the space his city would become if it could free itself of the individuals who bring it into being in the first place. I find it haunting and poetic; even if little happens, it feels like a tour of a place I’ve almost touched myself.

In another strong one, a young girl dressed as a boy explores the community of tall ships. She imagines a new persona for herself and then locates it in the collective of the ships themselves. There’s story here, but it too is secondary to the sense of someone needing a community in which to discover herself. Her “dream” as it were is the kind of ship that it takes a company to keep afloat. She cannot dream such a dream alone.

Almost all the other stories share that quality, and it gives a coherence to this volume that too many others lack. On top of that, the sense of a Canterbury-Tales or Decameron-like framing device redeems the problem of the erratic artwork. The same artist draws all the frame scenes, and then a different one handles each episode. That makes it feel as if comes from a different narrator, and it gives the ever-changing styles a purpose.

I’ve got just the two volumes left in the series, so number nine is set to go. I’m curious to see where it will all go, but I am beginning to get ready for a new graphic novel experience.

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