Similar situation here to yesterday. I get a lot of comics as gifts, which makes it hard to pick one. However, since Death is about to make a re-appearance in the DCU, I figured this would be an appropriate choice.
The gift I received, then, was the 3-issue collection of Death: The High Cost of Living. It was given to me by Seb, the co-writer of this blog, a couple of years ago (I’m rubbish at remembering the dates of things, although since it was a birthday present I’m going to say it was September 2008). Obviously, this is far too late for someone with my interest in comics to be reading Sandman, and were it not for Seb, it would have been even longer. So, here’s my excuse.
One of the problems with entertainment art – even in a relatively small form like comics – is that there’s simply too much stuff to ever catch up with all the great works. For every 10 films, albums, comics or books people are telling me is a work of utter genius, I seem to find the time for maybe three, at most. Unless I entirely give up on reading new books and comics, watching new films and listening to new albums, I’m reasonably sure I’ll go to my grave having never read Promethea, or seen Vertigo, or listened to anything by Pavement. I’ve come to terms with that. I just try to follow my nose and not worry too much about all the great things I’m probably missing on the way.
The thing is, sometimes you need someone to point you in the right direction. I avoided Sandman for years based on the strength (or lack thereof) of 1602, which was the only Gaiman-comic I’d read at the time. What I really needed was for someone to sit me down and say “Look, Sandman isn’t just some goth shite, it’s probably the finest long-form comics narrative ever composed and any comics fan is a fool not to have read it.” Which is more or less what Seb did over the first few years that I knew him, until I finally decided to give it a shot when the Absolute editions came out.
In the midst of me reading those, Seb bought me this – the first, more stand-alone Death miniseries – as a complement, since I didn’t want to skip ahead but was getting impatient waiting for the next Absolute release. It’s a great little story in which Death assumes human form for one day, as required to maintain her position, and the whole thing just reads like an extended, feature-length issue of Sandman. I was a bit concerned that the series’ plot – about someone trying to steal Death’s powers – was a bit generic, but there’s a third act twist which saves it, and I’m never quite sure if it was a genuine fake-out or if Gaiman snapped to his senses before issue #3 and realised who he was.
That said, I’m not sure it’s the kind of story that would convince new readers of Sandman‘s overall brilliance. As a gift, it was perfect for my situation, wanting to read more Sandman but unable to follow anything outside the core series – but more generally, there are probably better choices.