Sandman: Season of Mists by Neil Gaiman and a cast of thousands.
“To absent friends, lost loves, old gods, and the season of mists; and may each and every one of us always give the devil his due.”
That toast, offered by the immortal wanderer Hob Gadling to Dream of the Endless, forms the center of this story. Dream has a discreditable act thrown in his face at a family gathering, and sets in motion a chain of events that leads to the emptying of Hell, the dead returning to Earth, and a squabble among the deities of dozens of pantheons over the ultimate fate of “the most desirable plot of psychic real estate in the whole order of created things.”
I picked this up looking for something quick to read, and because it’s probably the most self-contained of the Sandman collections. The story is set in motion on the first page, and concluded on the last, and while there are elements and themes that tie it into the larger series (Loki and Satan figure prominently in the concluding volumes), but pretty much everything you need to understand the story lies within the covers of this one volume, including the capsule descriptions of the six remaining Endless. The one missing piece is the details of the failed romance that provides the “lost love” in the story, which appears in A Doll’s House instead.
It’s not as impressive a story as what unfolds later, but it’s still a nice piece of work. The art in this one is pretty good, too– a bit cartoonish (duh), but better than the ultra-abstract stuff in The Kindly Ones. And if you haven’t read the Sandman books, and would like an introduction, this wouldn’t be a bad place to start.
(Originally posted to The Library of Babel.)