Recently released through Vertigo Comics is the definitive collection of Death stories straight from the pages of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman. This collection includes an introduction from long time Sandman fan, Tori Amos, then kicks off with Death stories The sound of her Wings, A Winters Tail, and facade. The novel also includes Death: The High Cost of Living, Death: The Time of Your Life, as well as the story Death and Venice and Endless Nights. There are also the short stories The Wheel and Death Talks About Life and the graphic novel finishes with a gallery of Death portraits from the artistic talents of Brian Bolland, Jeff Smith (Bone), Chris Bachalo, and many more.
Up until reading this collection I couldn’t claim to be a fan of Sandman or any of the comic’s associated characters. It’s not that I don’t like Neil Gaiman stories (hell, American Gods has to be somewhere in my top 10 of “all time favorite reads” if I had such a top 10…), because I do. It’s just Sandman is something I never picked up as a teenager. Which really fills me with a lot of regret because these stories are wonderful. Yeah, on the surface, I wouldn’t think I’d enjoy any story where Death is a sort of upbeat goth chick/hipster from the ’90’s… but I did. These stories are thoughtful and, while still being comics, deal with strong emotions of loss, pain, or regret. Yet at the same time they are humorous, insightful, and even adventurous. They’re beautifully illustrated tales that have a unique “Gaiman” quirkiness that lets you enjoy people dying. Sometimes painfully. I think one of my favorite sets of stories is Death: The High Cost of Living, where Death has taken human form for a day and adventures around New York with a suicidal teenage companion. Very much not the type of comic I go looking for (what with the lack of scantly clad women, explosions, and a Star Destroyer or two), but I thought it was fun in it’s own weird magic sort of way. Death is almost sort of vulnerable in this one as she, along with Sexton Furnival (great name), try and escape a mad man hell bent of capturing her. The story also includes the character Mad Hettie who I enjoyed very much. Overall, I had a lot of fun with this collection of comics and I encourage other Death/Sandman newbies to give it a try.
Death by Neil Gaiman can be found in bookstores now or online at Vertigo Comics. I’ve posted a small sample of images below, but the graphic novel is so much more than this. Go get a copy and enjoy the hell out of it! Now, excuse me while I go put on a flannel shirt, and my Doc Martin boots, and go listen to my Nevermind cassette.