In the forty-ninth issue of The Sandman, we discover the other side of the coin. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Sandman.
There’s always a choice, and there’s always an end. There are no beliefs without believers, and the Endless depend on humans and their brief lives, even if they won’t admit that. (I’m speaking directly to you, Dream.)
This is a very sad end to Brief Lives, but aren’t most of the great truths just a little bit sad? We are mortal beings, and our lives are brief in the grand scope of things. Most of us will be forgotten. We’ll live very full lives, but they are just an instant in the span of history. They are a fleck of dust on the timeline of existence. Most of us will be forgotten. For the first time in the series, I feel like the story acknowledges not only this idea, but the fact that the Endless have been affecting human lives all along the way.
Well, there are multiple levels you can read all of this, but I like that it’s about the endless cycle of mortality, about how much the Endless depend on this very cycle, and how we can gain comfort from that idea.
Above all, Dream has changed. Like Desire, I feel sad for him. He’s made decisions over the course of his existence that he regrets, and they’re all coming back at once. I’ve simply never seen him this fucked up, and the death of his sons by his hands has irreversibly hurt him. I was moved by the appearance of blood after Orpheus died; it was a literal manifestation of guilt for Dream, and I’m interested to see if it’ll have further ramifications for him. In this issue, though, seeing that blood is a unavoidable. He can’t ignore that he killed his own son. What’s he thinking? Does he wish he had given his son death earlier? Does he truly believe his son has been dead this whole time?
Whatever’s going on in Dream’s mind, I do get to see how his behavior has changed since I was first introduced to him. He’s thankful. That must sound weird, but he simply doesn’t thank anyone pretty much ever. That’s why Gryphon is flabbergasted that Dream thanks him for his service. It’s never happened before, so that’s why he asks, “Is he all right?” No, he’s not, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. He allows Nuala to keep a pendant, and he speaks to Lucien with much more vulnerability and far less authority. This time, I think Mervyn is wrong. Dream is living a real life. Just because it’s so different and strange doesn’t mean it isn’t any less thrilling, dangerous, mysterious, weird, difficult, and beautiful. It’s his own. But he also has to face his own life and his own decisions. I feel like that’s the whole point of the next sequence where Dream washes his hands of his son’s blood. He was so careless with his son when Eurydice died. Now, he’s lost his son, and he misses him, too. His advice comes back to haunt him. “So live,” he once said. Well, what the hell is that supposed to mean? God, the image of him slumped over in his chair, lost in his own thoughts, is so haunting to me. Dream doesn’t know what to do with these feelings, especially because he suddenly knows what all those mortals have felt for the entirety of human existence.
It’s no accident, then, that we see a procession of brief lives. We see loss, depression, grief, and fury. We see Danny Capax coping with the loss of his father. We see Tiffany’s joy. We see Desire remember her own brother. But this particular issue ends where it began. Andros has spent most of his life in the role he was given, and it’s now coming very close to the end. He accepts this cycle, that with every birth there comes a death. That includes his own. There is no way out of this. But that doesn’t mean there’s only one side of the coin. He started out with life, and he lived. Death, then, is the other side of the coin for him. He accepts it as he accepts the beautiful day he is experiencing. They are one and the same.
My god, this volume is so fucking good.
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