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The Sandman: "Brief Lives"

A Review of Volume Seven of the Brilliant, Epic Comic Series

By Tom BakerPublished 4 months ago Updated 4 months ago 3 min read
What does Destruction do for you? He cooks dinner.

There's no denying that Neil Gaiman's epic comic series The Sandman is a work of sheer brilliance; the sprawling horror fantasy encompasses ten volumes of individual issues, spanning various story arcs, all culminating in the saga of Lord Morpheus, Dream of the Eternals, whose brothers and sisters include Despair, Destiny, Desire, Delirium, Death, and Destruction. It is the latter, the renegade Destruction, who left his realm as an Eternal to strike out in the human world; on a remote island, with a curmudgeonly talking dog, and Destruction as his Boy (ala' Vic and Blood in Harlan Ellison's famous story). Across the way, on the famous Isle of Lesbos, lives Orpheus, son of Morpheus, a talking head guarded over zealously by a personal retinue of keepers.

Delirium, a child-like waif in a punky, homeless getup, who speaks as if she is drunk, literally delirious, making very little sense but managing to be humorous and compelling, nonetheless, confesses to missing Destruction, whom she wants, for some reason, desperately to locate. To that end, she goes to visit Morpheus, Lord and Master of the Dreaming, who, always dour and deeply goth, is pining over a failed relationship. He agrees to accompany her on an odyssey into the mortal realm, one supposes the world of the "awake," to locate Destruction, who left three hundred years ago, perhaps out of disgust with the milieu of the period.

Our backstory has a multiplicity of characters whose "brief lives" are indeed revealed to the reader. One of them is a child molester and pornographer; still, another is a lawyer who comes to a tragic, unforeseen end. Yet another is the goddess Ishtar, who is now working as a dancer in a cheap strip club. These people are revealed to be immortals, and their deaths come as a mystery to Morpheus, who assumes it is the influence of Delirium that is causing all of the havoc.

Delirium is cute as a button, but she is also dangerous. Her driving is erratic and wreckless, and when she is pulled over by a cop, she curses him with "invisible bugs," causing him to itch himself to madness. Dream and Delirium feel little concern for this, and continue their quest. (Their original driver, a woman named Ruby whose assistance was procured for them on behalf of an immortal business magnate whom Dream is personally acquainted with, dies from smoking in bed. She is just one of many casualties in this death-laden book. Oddly, hers seems to be the only death here that truly disturbs Dream, and we find out later that there is a definite reason for this.)

Nothing in the world of The Sandman is what it seems; the beauty of the series, the epic, is that it is a malleable world, one that plays with the tropes of mythology, horror, mysticism, and the surreal, on a framework or structure that is as solid as the scaffolding in a building that will never see completion. Things totter, seemingly shifting and swaying, coursing into and out of each other without easy explanation. It is truly a surreal world in every sense, and a tightly woven narrative is unnecessary. As a work of art, the consciousness consumes it, attempts to digest it, finds it cannot easily do so, and just relaxes, lets go, and lets it wash over the mind like a surreal symphony of compelling artwork and poetic beauty.

It would be an easy act to give away the ending--if an ending was forthcoming. But in the world of The Sandman, there are no easy answers, and nothing is ever what it appears to be.


The Sandman Vol. 7 - Brief Lives (1993) - Comic Story Explained

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About the Creator

Tom Baker

Author of Haunted Indianapolis, Indiana Ghost Folklore, Midwest Maniacs, Midwest UFOs and Beyond, Scary Urban Legends, 50 Famous Fables and Folk Tales, and Notorious Crimes of the Upper Midwest.:

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  • Randy Wayne Jellison-Knock4 months ago

    Still haven't read it, but enjoyed the review & looking forward to watching the summary. But first, we have charge conference about to start.

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