Mark Reads ‘The Sandman’: 7×08 – Brief Lives, Chapter 8

In the forty-eighth issue of The Sandman, the Endless meet with their long-lost brother, and it’s about as frustrating as you can imagine. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Sandman.

“Chapter 8” 

There was never going to be an easy end to this, and I didn’t imagine for longer than a minute or two that Destruction would return to his realm. I suppose I entertained the notion briefly because it would make Delirium happy, but I also don’t expect these sort of things from fiction anymore. (Thank you for ruining me, Whedon and GRRM. RUINED ME.) What I wanted from this interaction wasn’t even the explanation behind Destruction’s actions, despite that I did finally get the reasons for that. For me, what gives this story arc substance is the growth that we get to witness. I know I’ve spoken about it more than probably any one thing on Mark Reads, but I crave character development. I want to see the characters change, for better or worse, over the course of a story. How do the events affect a person? Why should I care about the plot? How can I believe fictional characters if they act in increasingly fantastical ways? (That’s not to say that you have to do those things, and I love a good deconstruction or trope bend.)

As much as Dream will probably refuse to admit it, he’s changed. The events of this entire series and especially from this particular story have pushed Dream out of comfort zone. Hell, the very fact that Dream is even there at Destruction’s place is evidence of that. If this storyline had taken place within the first few volumes of the series, I would have felt comfortable predicting exactly what Dream would have done in the presence of his brother. You can still see a lot of that here; it’s not like Dream has so drastically changed that he’s entirely unlike his old self. He’s still stubborn; he is quick to the point; he’s quite arrogant, too.

But he also allows Delirium to talk openly. He doesn’t interrupt her. He is patient and calm, letting her speak to her brother about their journey, even though I fully expected him to cut her off to move things along more quickly. Oh god, is he starting to be more aware of those around him?

Most of the conversation these three have is more about the futile attempt to get Destruction to come back and his rejection of the very idea of the Endless. Hell, until the very end of this issue, there’s only one real big shocker revealed in the midst of the conversation: Despair was destroyed once. What?!?!?! How is that possible? And the Endless can be reborn? I’m not sure I totally understand this, but I do get why this detail is important. Destruction abdicated from his responsibilities to escape from this cycle. He found the other side of the coin, the other choice among an existence that was endless. He refused to give his sigil to anyone else, either. He wouldn’t pass on a life lake that to anyone. Ugh, Destruction, you are such a fascinating character, and you’ve barely been in the pages of this series. I mean, I also have to acknowledge that someone who does something this immense also set into place a set of “functions” to prevent anyone from finding him, which led to the death of numerous people in this issue. So he’s a noble being who wanted to create his own destiny, and he’s a murdered. COMPLEX CHARACTERS, I LOVE YOU.

I also love the goddamn gorgeous two-page view of space outside of Destruction’s house. I love that it’s done in watercolor. I love the jarring but functional speech bubbles that jump out from the blackness of the sky. I love that I can stare at these two pages and imagine that everything matters, that there’s a permanence to the night sky. THIS IS WHY I LOVE COMIC BOOKS. It’s such a beautiful choice for Gaiman to make, and it’s rendered perfectly.

It’s a somber thought and image to go along with what Destruction believes about the world: he is not needed. Everything will go on without him. There will still be destruction, and humans have seen to it that that will continue on until there are no humans left. So why must he keep on going as well? And in a way, he sort of is doing his job. He’s destroyed the very order he worked with. There’s no Destruction amongst the Endless anymore. As he says to Dream, “Nothing new can exist without destroying the old.” Is it possible there could be a new Endless? Can that even happen?

Regardless, there’s nothing any of them can say to Destruction to convince him to come back. It’s as I expected, and I feel pleased that he sticks to his own philosophy. I was touched that as a gesture to Delirium, he passed along Barnabas to give her someone to watch over her. Then he simply gathers his sword and scrying pool, and he walks off into the stars, disappearing. It’s both comforting and sad, and I wondered how Delirium would deal with losing Destruction for what would probably be forever. Let’s just say that the last line pretty much wiped that thought out of my brain:

“I have to kill my son.”

WHAT?!?! WHAT THE HELL? 

Why? WHY DO YOU HAVE TO DO THAT? How is this going to end anyth–

oh. oh my god. That’s what Dream owes Orpheus, isn’t it? His death. oh my god.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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