Sandman Omnibus, Volume II by Neil Gaiman and Others

This entry is part 7 of 23 in the series 2023 Reads

Like other reads, this one is being posted a little while after I’ve finished it. It was a long, slow read, because even for a comic, 1000+ pages is a huge chunk of book. 

I was commenting, recently, about how I was struggling a little with Sandman, and a reply was made that reiterated something I wrote when I was discussing Volume I of the Omnibus: reading a decade’s worth of comics all in one go is quite different from reading it issue by issue over a longer period, and it’s probably less enjoyable as one’s first experience with a series. 

That said, the local library has its timeline for borrowings and returns, and I have other things I’m reading or eager to get to, so I am making an effort to finish with all three of these volumes by the end of the month. (I succeeded, too: I’ll discuss the third volume in my next #booksread2023 post.)

If I struggled a bit with Volume I, then Volume II was much more challenging, I think in part because it’s more episodic. The stuff that’s good here is really good—like Sandman’s encounter with Odysseus, or some of the individual tales that come up in Brief Lives—but there’s also a certain amount of stuff that rubbed me the wrong way. Part of the latter is a certain aesthetic for characters that just turns me off—Delirium’s mix of twee cutesiness and sorrowful pain—and I think sometimes my expectation that things would lock together more tightly at times when Gaiman was going for something more episodic. Which is fine: some of my disappointment is on me as a reader, and on the mismatch of my appetite with Gaiman’s product. 

I do like Gaiman’s take on the idea of conceptual gods—a limited handful of gods with power over fundamental forces of the universe (or, at least, fundamental forces in narrative, for that is what they are). It’s a clear touchstone for Jenna Moran’s RPG Nobilis, which is cool. (I think of Nobilis as the most beautiful and interesting RPG I’ll never get to play.) This becomes even more evident from a throwaway line in Volume III of the Omnibus, but… I’ll get to that later. 

I think the other thing is, again, I’m reading this decades after it was fresh and new, and that some of it just hasn’t aged as well as other parts. Like the popular fiction of other past eras, there are parts that are good, and parts at which I can only kind of think, “Well, it was something about that era, I guess.” Funnily enough, as I was reading the latter part of the volume, I got Tori Amos’ “Tear In Your Hand” stuck in my head for days straight. (Even listening to the song didn’t banish this earworm.) It’s not just the author’s friendship with the singer or the intertextual references that did that, I don’t think: there’s also the fact that there’s a sort of emotional symmetry at work there: some strange mixture of grandiosity and cuteness and sorrow that just doesn’t quite do for me what I know it seems to do for a lot of other people. 

I’m still mostly glad I read it, though. 

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