“The Sandman: Season of Mists” by Neil Gaiman
[“Season of Mists” is the fourth book in Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series, and is illustrated by Kelley Jones, Mike Dringenberg, Malcolm Jones III, Matt Wagner, Dick Giordano, George Pratt, and P. Craig Russell.]
Finally, it’s time to meet the whole family. After a few sightings of Desire and Despair, and mention of both Destiny and Delirium, the whole Endless family gather for a meeting after Destiny (eldest of the Endless) is confronted by three sisters in his garden. There’s no known reason for them all to meet, but soon brothers and sisters act like they normally do and berate Morpheus for how he sent Nada (the beautiful young queen from “The Doll’s House”) to suffer in hell for refusing him. Realizing he’s been a tool, Morpheus decides to journey into hell to attempt to free Nada from her terrible prison, without realizing that causing him to enter hell was exactly the reason the family had to all meet in the first place.
We’re finally introduced to Destiny, a robed figure who wanders with an all-telling book, and Delirium, who used to be known as Delight but is now a confused, stammering, pathetic case.
Morpheus returns to the DreamWorld and announces to all his people that he will be journeying into hell and may not return, and that should he not return they should behave themselves. For Morpheus remembers the last time he journeyed into hell – to get back his helmet – and how he gained no favor among Lucifer and the demons for winning the contest and taking his prize home.
But, what’s done is done and Morpheus sends Cain to hell as a messenger. Cain’s announcement gets Lucifer thinking.
Morpheus makes a few pit stops before heading into hell. The first, to see Hippolyta and his newly-born son. Though Hippolyta is angry as ever, we learn that the baby’s name is Daniel. Next, Morpheus stops to see Hob Gadling and the two old friends share a glass of fine wine.
Then, it’s into hell Morpheus goes – and is surprised to find the place nearly empty. Lucifer has kicked everyone out, and is closing up shop. He’s tired of ruling hell, so he sets the last few souls and demons free and asks Morpheus to de-wing him. Once that’s done, Lucifer hands over the key to Hell to Morpheus, who immediately realizes he’s now in possession of something everything wants.
Hell is very desirable property.
Soon, gods and monsters from all over are arriving at Morpheus’ castle trying to gain the key from him; Loki, Thor, Azazel, two angels, Lady Bast (a cat-woman), The God of Chaos (in the form of a little girl), and representatives from the Faerie (among others) arrive and make their cases. Morpheus welcomes them all and hears their arguments.
(Lady Bast makes mention of where his brother may be held. As we haven’t really been alerted to a missing brother prior to this point in the story, I’m sure this is something to note.)
Meanwhile, since Lucifer forced all the creatures of Hell out, the dead are returning to earth. Even Death herself is overwhelmed. On earth, a young boy named Charles Rowland is forced to spend the holidays at his boarding school after his father is too busy to fetch him. While he wanders trying to amuse himself, the dead who once inhabited the school return and take over the place. Dead bullies torture Charles and he dies. Death (speeding through with a million things to do) tries to take him, but he refuses to go without another ghost boy named Edwin Paine he’s become friends with. The two dead boys walk off the grounds of the school and into the world.
Back in DreamWorld, Morpheus has heard all the arguments and is about to announce his choice when the two angels are informed (By God, duh) they they are to take the key to hell and rule it, as heaven and hell are reflections of each other.
Dream then frees Nada from Limbo, and she is re-born in reality as a baby. Cluracan (a faerie) gifts his sister, Nuala, to Morpheus despite both their objections. And it turns out that Loki was disguised as another of the gods. Seeing some usefulness in Loki, Morpheus lets him stay as well.
So Morpheus is left without the key to Hell, but with new residents of DreamWorld.
Lucifer is spotting sitting on a beach in Australia, admiring the sunset.
In hell, the two angels – Duma and Remiel – have changed things. No longer is hell full of violence for no reason. There is now violence, but it is to cleanse the demons and souls that inhabit it and to bring them to redemption.
The volume ends with Destiny reading the events in his book, all-knowing.
“Season of Mists” is an incredibly smart volume. From Lucifer referencing “Paradise Lost” to the brief interlude where we’re shown Lucien’s library of books that were never written, it’s all a literary wonderland, much like the Sandman series itself. Gaiman is clearly tying the world into these stories – from DC Comics characters to Shakespeare to biblical figures – and the effect continues to grow more and more fascinating.
If I have any complaint, it felt like the whole thing built up to what wasn’t as big of a revelation as it should have been. The angels receiving the message that God has ordained them to keep the key was awesome, but I would have liked a bit more – something. As it stood, it built up to Morpheus’ decision, which was never revealed. What would he have done had the angels not jumped in right in the nick of time? Maybe that’s one of the great mysteries of the series.. who knows?
Looking forward to book 5 – “A Game of You.”