Mark Reads ‘Death: The Time of Your Life’

In the second Death book, Foxglove and Hazel struggle with their disintegrating relationship and the death of someone close to them. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Death: The Time of Your Life.

Yeah, I know this isn’t part of The Sandman proper, but I’m certain that The Time of Your Life is the absolute best story in this universe. I am floored by this, by a story about queer characters, the contrasts between public and private living, and what a family means to different people. This might be the richest story in this entire series, and I am so happy that Hazel and Foxglove are brought back for an entire book of their own.

Oh god, MY FEELINGS.

  • This is just a gorgeous set of issues, and I really need to comment on how fun it’s been to get the chance to see the work of so many various artists. It’s another reason why I love the medium so much. This isn’t something you get to experience when you’re reading a novel. And that’s not to criticize novels! I love that as well, but this is a different journey because of this.
  • Foxglove’s dream and the parallels to Icarus = my emotional destruction by page four. I can’t. I cannot deal with this already.
  • I have certainly not been a megastar musician on tour, but I’ve been touring in bands and with bands and did my own tour early this year, so I can just say that the entire opening section of chapter one is just some straight up brilliance wrapped in a truth bomb. There is an inherent loneliness to tour, exacerbated by those you’ve left behind. You develop routines, sometimes absurd ones that make no sense in any other context, to make sense of the chaos. You learn to sleep in uncomfortable and unfamiliar places, night after night. You learn how to stay private in public spaces. And this particular chapter includes a bit about Foxglove being in the closet, and let me tell you: despite that I am out, there are some places I can’t be. There are some places in the United States where I have to tone down my personality or make ambiguous references to who my friends are or what I am. Is it unfortunate? Of course. But it’s an issue of safety, and there are many places in the United States where people like me are not welcome. And that’s not even taking into account my skin color or my very visible tattoos! So I was really happy to see this addressed.
  • I really like Larry. Like, a lot.
  • ALVIE. OH MY GOD. OH MY GOD.
  • HAZEL. LOOK AT YOU. LOOK AT YOUR LOVELY HAIR.
  • When Larry died, all I could think was, “Wow, Mark, you shouldn’t have started liking him. That always mean doom for a character.”
  • That being said, I pretty much enjoyed every character introduced in this story within just a few pages, Boris and Vito included
  • Just in terms of the art, putting the vision of Larry in black and white was simply gorgeous. It made his fade into fire so much more effective. But it has this surreal noir feel to it that introduces the mystery of his death into the story. Unlike the last story, Death herself doesn’t appear for a while, so this got me wondering what was going on. Why the warning?
  • And like clockwork, Hazel tells Foxglove to come home, and Foxglove, unsurprisingly, ignores her. Oh damn, WHAT IS HAPPENING.
  • I TURNED THE PAGE. OH MY GOD. OH MY GOD. WHY IS DEATH THERE. WHY DOES SHE HAVE THAT LOOK ON HER FACE. WHERE ARE THEY GOING.
  • A great deal of the next portion of The Time of Your Life is Hazel speaking openly and honestly to Death about what her life has been like. I get that it acts as a lengthy piece of exposition for us. We learn about her relationship to Foxglove and why Hazel must accompany Death, but it really isn’t just about the plot. Death is such a sympathetic figure throughout The Sandman series, and this whole section is evidence of that. She has a responsibility to the world, but she still takes the time to sit with Hazel and hear her out. Granted, time doesn’t work for her like it does in our universe, but it’s so meaningful to me to see this on the pages.
  • Foxglove is an asshole in the early part of this story, but that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate how Gaiman explores the way she copes with her fame. It’s fascinating to me, especially that dream where she is a butterfly. For someone like Foxglove, she fears that she has lost her freedom and her happiness, and there’s something beautifully simplistic to her about that sort of life.
  • I can’t even cope with how beautiful Hazel is in that flashback to her job as a chef at Sexton’s mother’s place. Like, oh my god. Bless the art in this book, and thank you, Neil Gaiman, for creating this character.
  • I like that both Vito and Boris provide different things for Foxglove and ultimately support her in different ways. It’s kind of rad that this story involves them catering to and revolving around a lesbian. That dynamic is rare! And I don’t know if Vito himself is gay or queer, but I kind of read him that way a few times in the story.
  • I know this is Death’s story, but the way the flashback scenes of Hazel’s are integrated into the comic actually seem like she’s in Dream’s realm. Ugh, now I have feelings about Dream again.
  • Ultimately, it’s easier for me to empathize with Hazel in this story, as it’s hard for me to deal with cheating in a romantic narrative. It’s something that’s always a bit too personal for me, especially since I was cheated on rather terribly in my first relationship. That being said, that doesn’t mean I’m disinterested in Foxglove’s story. On the contrary, in this case, I was able to work past my distaste with cheating to appreciate the complex story Gaiman was telling. It’s not always like this for me, but I’m glad it happened this time. It’s fascinating to see this relationship from both sides, to see why Foxglove isolates herself so often, even from Hazel. And then, pages later, we get Hazel’s side of the story. I guess what I ultimately love about this is that Gaiman gives us two incredibly well-written, complete characters who are both queer and who both have their own stories. It’s so rare that I see this, and I love it.
  • In terms of Hazel’s story, I’m satisfied that Gaiman doesn’t chalk up her behavior to mere jealousy. Her distaste for Foxglove’s life is so much more dense than that, and he inherently respects that she feels like she’s losing her grip on the one person she loves in this way. It’s about feeling special, and now Hazel doesn’t think she has that anymore. Among other reasons, yes, but she misses the simplicity of feeling like it’s her her, Foxglove, and Alvie.
  • God, I just adore Boris’s reaction to all the weird shit he witnesses, and how Vito just sort of goes along with it.
  • So I never expected to read a story about the emotional devastation Death might cause from caring, and then this all happens, and I find out why Hazel is on the border of the “sunless lands,”  and what that opening set of scenes were about, and my heart is just crushed. And then Foxglove is drawing Death’s sigil and entering her world and I know the confrontation is going to come and PLEASE DON’T LET THIS END BADLY.
  • “Maybe Death has a sense of humor.” “‘Mm. You can’t read a newspaper these days without noticing that.” nooooo too many feelings nooooooooo
  • “What was your name before you were named?” “That’s a pretty bloody zen sort of question, isn’t it?” I LOVE YOU, BORIS.
  • I don’t care what anyone says: I loved the explanation of where Foxglove got her name.
  • Death’s talk with Hazel about the meaning behind the pain in life reminds me a lot of what was covered in The High Cost of Living, and that thematic symmetry is awesome. What does it mean to be alive? And for this couple, what cost will they pay to keep their son alive? What makes life worth living?
  • Yeah, so how heartbreaking is Hazel’s story about the moment that made her life matter? Foxglove forgot it. Oh god, I DID NOT SIGN UP FOR THESE EMOTIONS.
  • “Um. I love you.” “Thank you, Hazel. I love you, too.” “Yeah, but you love everyone.” “I know.” JUST STOP IT. JUST STOP DOING THESE THINGS TO ME.
  • One of them has to stay with Death. Oh, no. Oh no no no no no no. Hazel, my heart bursts for what you’ve done. You loved your son so much that you made a heartbreaking deal. H E L P.
  • Hazel’s declaration of love is everything I want from life. I just treasure and cherish these characters so much, but this joy is also related to something else: there’s a happy ending here. In the next segment, the colors almost entirely disappear from the page. The death of one of these characters is incredibly close, and I feared for a bleak ending. Vito didn’t want to die, and neither did Foxglove, at least at first. But after spending so much time hiding who she was in order to be Foxglove, she decides it’s time to give up and be herself, even if that means dying. I know that’s selfish, but she wants to be happy, even for a second, and I can’t help but appreciate that.
  • But it’s Boris who steps up to the plate. His sense of duty, of what he’s supposed to do, dictates that he should take care of Foxglove, as his boss once told him. And he does that. He chooses to stay for everyone else, and my god, it’s so sad, but it fills me with pride and respect for him. He chose to end his life how he wanted to. We see that same notion echoed by Foxglove at the end of the book, right before she sheds her butterfly wings in her dream. And this second chance at life for her and her family is her affirmation of life.
  • The epilogue, if anything, provides a beautiful reference to The Sandman as a whole. Who cares if it’s all just a dream? Why does that dilute the experience? Why should this be discounted? To me, though, The Time of Your Life is about just that – the time spent living and what we choose to do with that time. Ultimately, Foxglove chose her family and her girlfriend, and I don’t know that I’ve ever liked a happy ending more than this one.

And now I’ll go swim in my feels.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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