Friday, July 16, 2010

Midnight Days

Grade: G+
Title: Midnight Days
Author: Neil Gaiman
Artists: Dave McKean, Matt Wagner, Richard Piers Rayner, Mike Hoffman, Mike Mignola, Teddy Kristiansen, and Steve Bissette and John Totleben.

I was somewhat surprised to find that I really enjoyed this collection of short comic stories by Neil Gaiman and various artists (most notably, in my opinion, Dave Mckean). However, before I go into the stories, a brief note about the author Neil Gaiman. You might as well know - I am currently writing my masters thesis on Sandman, written by Gaiman. He is truly a fascinating writer and has done much for comics (i.e. Sandman - really you should read it as it proves itself to be very interesting, haunting, and, ultimately, beautiful - and Black Orchid,among other briefer works). I would recommend almost anything he has written, though he has the tendency to be a little dodgy (both in some aspects of his writing and some of the mature content he chooses to include).

For Midnight Days, I was quite glad I had just read Swamp Thing by Alan Moore (see previous post on July 2nd) because three of the five stories are some development of it. Out of the three - some quiet odd, especially "Swamp Thing Annual."

I am afraid there might have been several references I just did not understand ( i.e. about the puppet who got struck by lightening) in this story. The previous story dealt with the Swamp Thing taking care of people who died of the plague, which is interesting if nothing else. At the same time, the second one is most assuredly interesting and has some good parts (for example, there are two pages where Batman himself puts in an appearance and you know how I feel about Batman). Overall, with "Swamp Thing Annual" I just did not appreciate it like I felt I was supposed to.

Out of these three, the last story provided me with the most pleasure because it laid out Gaiman's idea of plantology. It was intriguing to see where he wanted to take Swamp Thing (originally he was going to write some of this series, but he opted not to when the current writer left early . . . here is my plug for introductions: you should pretty much ALWAYS read them. OK, there are some exceptions, but if the introduction or preface is written by the author you really have to read it. Luckily, Gaiman makes his so interesting and funny that they are always worth the read)! Thus, he seems to reveal in his introduction that if he had stayed with Swamp Thing instead of creating Sandman, he still would have weaved all of the different mythologies in with one he already created.

However, the story in this collection that surprised me by its depth and tenderness (since the first three were really about a young writer attempting to become familiar with his own writing) was Gaiman's collaboration with Dave McKean in "Hold Me." This story includes as its protagonist an intriguing character named John Constantine who Alan Moore originally created. The story is beautiful in its dark simplicity as a dead person (at least that is what I am going to call him since Constantine seemed to in the story) wanders around looking for someone to hold him because he is so cold. Intertwining this with Constantine's own story, creating something really special. Of course, Dave McKean's art is what elevates this piece even higher. His lines are exquisite and he captures expressions exceptionally well.

McKean's art also works to provide a pertinent tone to the story overall. Through his use of more sketchy lines, he is able to reflect the story itself. This story really represents what good comic writing is all about - neither words nor images should be privileged, instead they should work together to further the success of the story.

Finally, the collection ends with a story bringing together the two Sandmans (the pulp, gas mask wearing one with Gaiman's creation of the one from the Endless). I did enjoy this story, but one really should have read his Sandman to appreciate it. Also, I couldn't help but wonder how much I missed for not having read the original Sandman. The story was able to stand up though because it was interesting and presented some great characters who did not appear cheesy at all (which I have to admit I was expecting from the pulp Sandman).

Rather, the characters were both believable and identifiable, especially the enigmatic priest. The art in this story was refreshing most of the time, reminding me of Edward Hopper in some places. Altogether, this collection is absolutely worth the read, and some of the stories are so enjoyable that I hope you are able to make the time. Until next time; go enjoy some art!

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