As I Go Along: The Sandman #4 “Seasons of Mist”

Note: “As I Go Along” is a weekly feature in which I review and discuss the best graphic novels and series that I haven’t yet had a chance to read. These are the titles your comic-loving friends have been trying to push into your hands for years, only now I’ll be doing the pushing (or telling you not to bother). The post will include spoilers for those who have not yet read the work.

“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.”

After a bit of a wait, the latest collection of “The Sandman” I’ve gotten to put the focus back on Dream as the central character, with, of course, a few of Neil Gaiman’s trademark jumps elsewhere mixed in. “Seasons of Mist” begins with Destiny, the oldest of the Endless, calling a “family meeting.” One member is absent, and although we don’t know anything about he/she/it yet, other than that it is sometimes referred to as “the prodigal,” I’d wager its name starts with “d” (the six members present are Death, Destiny, Dream, Desire, Delirum, and Despair).

The happy family reunion quickly turns into a family argument, as Desire tells Dream he was wrong in sending Nada to Hell for thousands of years. Recall that we saw Dream walk past his former lover during his first trip to the underworld, and that we got the full story of their relationship in the prologue of “The Doll’s House.” Dream is outraged, until in a private conversation, Death says, “condemning her to eternity in hell, just because she turned you down… That’s a really shitty thing to do.”

Think about that, the Endless, the only immortal beings in the universe, use language as colloquial as “really shitty thing to do.” Well, Death does anyway. But it’s these kinds of odd juxtapositions that make “The Sandman” so great. Anyway, the argument leads to a sequence of events that make up the bulk of the major story arc: Dream returns to Hell only to find Lucifer is busy closing it down. It seems Satan is done ruling the underworld, and he puts Dream in charge of figuring out what the hell to do with the place (see what I did there?). As such, the story sets out to answer one question: What would happen if Lucifer up and left? Or, storytelling being what it is, what would you do if you had to decide who to give the key to Hell to? Dream ends up putting a couple of angels in charge despite the pleas of a plethora of deities, demons, and demi-gods (shit, Gaiman’s got me doing the d thing now). Of course, Destiny knew that was going to happen along, it’s kind of his thing.

The main story in “Seasons of Mist” was fantastic, but my favorite issue in the collection was doubtless one of those trademark jumps. It’s the fifth story, “”In Which the Dead Return; and Charles Rowland Concludes His Education.” Charles Rowland is left at his boarding school when most everyone else has gone home. Unfortunately for Charles, this happens to be at the same time Lucifer has kicked the dead out of hell, so those that died at the school (or just didn’t have anywhere else to go) return to haunt it.

Early on, Charles sits in front of a memorial for the boys from his school that died during the “Great War.” Two of those boys end up returning to St. Hilarion’s to torment Charles. He’s rescued by one Edwin Paine, who just so happened to have died when the same boys sacrificed him to the devil in 1914. The boys thought they would get special treatment in Hell because of their actions, “but when we went to Hell… They didn’t even care. They hadn’t even known. They–they laughed at us.”

Charles ends up dying, but Death’s far too busy to take him. Charles and Edwin decide they’ve learned all they’re going to at school and leave. Although they’re dead, they plan to “see what life’s got to offer.”



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