Nut Ink. Mini reviews of texts old and new. No fuss. No plot spoilers. No adverts. Occasional competency.

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Sandman: Vol VII: Brief Lives (1994)

Author: Neil Gaiman | Illustrator: Jill Thompson | Page Count: 256

You lived what anybody gets, Bernie. You got a lifetime. No more. No less.

Book 7 of 10 in the Sandman saga is a big one, 9 chapters long.  It uses that extra space to tell a different kind of story, to give the narrative room to breathe, and within that same space it gives the characters room to grow.  The girl with the coloured hair wants to find her missing brother, who up until now has been mentioned many times but rarely seen.  It’s a road trip, both in essence and in actuality.  What do all road trip stories have on common?  Character growth and change.  The concept of 'change' is this volume distilled to a single word.  There is change for Dream, change for the worlds he inhabits and change for the Endless, forever.  Consequences are ripples; they are perpetual when the pond that the stone is cast into lacks boundaries.

The term Graphic Novel is a bullshit banner to imply literary connotations to something that the majority of the public don’t understand.  Comics may have the ‘Graphic’ side covered but 99.9% of them aren't ‘Novels’ (Alan Moore is the exception) but this volume of Sandman is structured so very differently from comic book form that it almost feels wrong to be reading it within those terms.  In these pages we're given a glimpse of the novelist that Gaiman would become.
His novels are often a journey full of whimsical characters that at times are much too generic for their own good but by the end they become a commentary upon those very conventions of genre, they step outside themselves; the pay-off is worth the investment of time the reader gives it.  This volume has that same feeling; it may appear to be going nowhere very fast but when it pulls into a stop you'll be shivering with anticipation for the next volume.

The book collects together Sandman issues 41 – 49

4 all labyrinths lead to the same place out of 5

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