Death: At Death's Door

by Jill Thompson

Cover image

Publisher: Vertigo
Copyright: 2003
ISBN: 1-56389-938-8
Format: B&W graphic novel
Pages: 199

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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 — severely distorted — 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.

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

Reviewed: 2003-09-10

Last modified and spun 2016-11-06