Death: At Death's Door

Review: Death: At Death's Door by Jill Thompson

I decided to take a break from The Years of Rice and Salt and read something else, and had picked this up a while back. For those who have not already heard of it, it's a story of Gaiman's Death, telling events at the same time as Sandman: Season of Mists from Death's perspective (and Despair and Delirium). It's entirely in black and white and is drawn in a very manga style (complete with SD versions of the Endless).

Overall... well, a substantial portion of the book is a retelling of Sandman: Season of Mists. Some of it is from a different perspective, but actually quite a lot of it, substantial chunks of it, are just taken straight from the original but redrawn in manga style. This is one of my favorite Sandman stories, so I certainly didn't mind reading it again, but I was expecting a bit more original content.

In the new content, though, there are definitely some great moments, and Death is really about as well-written as she is in Gaiman's own work. Delirium has lots of typical Delirium moments (although she doesn't seem to reach her trademark level of giddy profundity nearly as often here), and the other Endless are all well-handled. Well, with the possible exception of Despair... I can't really point at anything exactly wrong, but she doesn't feel quite right. Mostly, I think she's just not quite dark enough.

The art style, which is really the main attraction here, is going to be a definite matter of taste. People who like the manga style and SD characters (severely distorted, usually meaning characters drawn child-like with utterly exaggerated expressions) will love this. Personally, I really prefer the standard US comic style, and absolutely loved the artwork in Sandman: Season of Mists, but this was amusing and different as a change. In small quantities at least. I think I've now had my fill of it for a while. I doubt I'm ever going to be a huge fan of manga in this style; my artistic preferences have always run towards realistic or at least more traditionally artistic, like the standard Sandman art.

It's a pretty substantial-sized book, but a very quick read without the artistic detail of Sendman; I went through the whole thing in about an hour.

Overall, don't expect exceptional brilliance at the level of Sandman or the other two Death miniseries, but recommended for fans of the series. Particularly recommended if the idea of cute little Endless screaming at each other with giant sweat drops and hitting each other with things sounds hilarious.

Rating: 7 out of 10

Posted: 2003-09-10 22:29 — Why no comments?

My thoughts on... Well, I loved it, but that was because it was completely, evilly wrong, while being about 95% right. She nailed both manga style and tropes, and mostly got the Endless right. How well she hit the two things in a way that really should not have worked hit me in just the right spot to feel totally absurd and hilarious.

Agreed on Despair -- several of the jokes about Cobain or Poe were ones that cracked me up for a good minute, then afterwards made me pause and say "You know, while I loved that.. Despair blushing and embarassed over Poe just feels sort of wrong."

The retold bits from SoM were mostly wasted pages, to me. I did like the talk between Death and Dream, and the bits with Charles and Paine, just because both actually *added* to what we'd seen before. On the other hand, too much of the retellings were simply the same scene almost exactly, redone in a different art style. Thus, I had an urge to flip through and get back to the new portions...

Delirium didn't get much profound, but other than that seemed totally at home. And something about her as Sailor Delirium is terrifyingly right. :) Despair I already spoke of.. Death was generally pretty good, though mildly went to a bubble-head at times. The only one that really felt truly off was the Girl Power speech, though.

Hmm.. okay, that's about it. Absurd and wonderful, to me.


Posted by Jon Robertson at 2003-09-10 22:50

Yeah, the girl power speech didn't really do much for me either. You're also very right about how it's totally wrong and right at the same time. She did an excellent job of balancing the gravitas of the Endless with the completely off-the-wall craziness of the artistic style.

Delirium works really well in that style, although I think my favorite Delirium moments were actually in Brief Lives, where she was more serious.

Posted by eagle at 2003-09-10 23:03

Last spun 2013-07-01 from thread modified 2013-01-04