Review: “Death: At Death’s Door” (The Sandman) by Jill Thompson

Interestingly, I think that I read this a while before I read Neil Gaiman’s “Season Of Mists” (volume four of Gaiman’s excellent “Sandman” comics/graphic novels).

Regardless, I was initially puzzled at how similar they were – since I wrongly (looking at the book again, it makes this fairly clear in a couple of places) assumed that this was another standalone “Death” comic like “Death: The High Cost of Living” and “Death: The Time Of Your Life”.

In fact, it is a re-telling of the events of “Season of Mists” from Death’s perspective.

As for the story itself, if anyone hasn’t read “Season of Mists”, it is a story about hell. Basically, Dream (the personification/god of dreams) travels to hell in order to free an ex-lover who has been there for 10,000 years (after a seriously bad break-up) – fully expecting to fight his way past Lucifer in the process. However, before this can happen, Lucifer says that he is retiring and gives Dream the key to hell before ordering all of it’s occupants to leave. The rest of “Season of Mists” follows a conference between Dream and a number of mythological and religious figures who each want to persuade Dream to give them control of hell…..

Although “Death: At Death’s Door” includes quite a few of the key scenes from “Season of Mists”, most of it takes place in Death’s realm after it has been suddenly innundated by the billions of souls who have been recently ejected from hell.
Death, along with Delerium and Despair, must find a way to deal with all of these new visitors…

Unlike “Season of Mists”, which is fairly serious and sombre, there’s a surprising amount of comedy in this comic and it’s definately a lot more light-hearted than it’s source material. Although there are obviously a few creepy, serious and/or depressing parts too.

Not to mention that there are a couple of interesting historical cameos amongst the crowd of refugees from hell too (the scenes with Edgar Allen Poe are absolutely priceless).

The art in this comic is kind of interesting too. Unlike Thompson’s art in “Fables & Reflections”, she uses a rather stylised/cute manga art style in “Death: At Death’s Door”. Although this art style fits very well with the eccentric, comedic and chaotic events and tone of the story….. It’s still just kind of (for want of a better word) strange to see a manga version of “The Sandman”.

It’s also in black & white too – which actually works fairly well, since it gives the comic an even more stylised look (it’s also fairly standard for this paperback novel-sized format of manga comics too). However, when a lot of things are happening, the B&W art can occasionally make things look confusing – especially since the panel layout is often quite interesting/inventive/unusual on some pages. Although, given that it’s a comic about a chaotic situation, then this is probably very much intentional.

Thompson’s writing in this comic, as with everything “Sandman”-related, is truly excellent – especially all of the dialogue between Death, Delerium and Despair.

Although I still have slightly mixed feelings about the art in this comic, it’s definately worth reading (especially if you’re a “Sandman” fan) and is surprisingly funny too. Yes, the main storyline is basically just “Season of Mists” from Death’s perspective. But, well, Death is one my favourite characters- so it’s always interesting to see things from her perspective. If I had to give this comic a rating out of five, then it’d probably get either a three or a four.

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