The Kindly Ones is the ninth installment of Neil Gaiman’s landmark series of Sandman graphic novels. It is easily the longest in the series (at least, so far, though I cannot yet speak to the length of final volume). It possesses this distinction because it concludes (or continues) so many storylines from previous books, and because the story is structured, brilliantly, in the form of a Greek tragedy-even to the point where we’ve got a Greek chorus of witches (as you might remember from reading Macbeth in high school), as well as the Eumenides, here called The Furies, or The Ladies, or, as in the title, The Kindly Ones.
It’s fairly useless to go into the story-it’s so vast and complex that anyone unfamiliar with the books wouldn’t be able to follow with extensive explanation. In short, the immortal Dream of the Endless has granted his son, Orpheus, the boon of death. As a result, the Furies-ancient Greek agents of vengeance-are after him, and there is little he can do to stop them.
The book is the most complex in the series, and in many ways the most brilliant. The references to Greek tragedy and mythology are well established, and well executed, fitting naturally into the long, but tight, storyline. The artwork in Kindly Ones, however, is not my favorite in the series. Marc Hempel, the primary artist, tends to draw a little too simply for my taste, producing an almost cartoony effect. While the artwork doesn’t do much to impress, it is satisfactory in executing the story, and Hempel admittedly does an excellent job of blocking and depicting the action, even if I don’t appreciate his style as much as I’ve enjoyed some of his predecessors in the Sandman series.
This is the second-to-last episode in the Sandman series, which on the whole has been as excellently crafted as just about any novel I’ve read, and, frankly, I’m almost loathe to get the final book, knowing that with it, comes the end of the series for me. It should be required reading for any serious and adventurous reader, and especially for anyone who enjoys non-traditional comic books.
The Sandman Vol. 9: The Kindly Ones
Paperback: 352 pages