The Sandman: Endless Nights, written by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by diverse others, is a collection of tales set in the Sandman universe, one story for each Endless. (Illustrated in the standard comic sense, that is, rather than a prose story with illustrations as The Dream Hunters was.) It’s somewhat of a mixed bag, but no more so than any of the prior Sandman collections. (I read this back in September and am only getting around to writing it up now.)
The first story, “Death and Venice,” is one of the better in the collection. Illustrated by P. Craig Russell, it’s not as jaw-droppingly beautiful as “Ramadan,” but it’s nevertheless highly pleasant to look at, with a central story that’s interesting even though we know what the ending must, inevitably, be. I do find the framing story a touch jarring, but that may be personal taste.
“What I’ve Tasted of Desire,” illustrated by Milo Manara, is okay. The most notable thing about it (besides the prevalence of nudity) is that it’s narrated in first-person retrospective over panels that depict the action in progress. Otherwise it didn’t particularly interest me.
Dream’s story is titled “The Heart of a Star,” and is illustrated by Miguelanxo Prado. In the introduction, Gaiman says, “While it is true that I am someone who prefers mysteries to explanations, I found it pleasurable here to explain a number of things.” I wish he’d stuck to the mysteries; the explanations are more anti-climactic than illuminating, and some of them strike me as implausible (Delight seems awfully Delirium-like, for instance, and my, was that a fast change of heart or what?).
“Fifteen Portraits of Despair” was designed by Dave McKean, with art by Barron Storey. I actually liked this one; several of the portraits stayed with me, as though the hook on Despair’s ring had caught my heart, which was the point. Mileage does seem to vary widely on it.
Maybe I’m weird, but I really liked the Delirium story “Going Inside,” illustrated by Bill Sienkiewicz. I found it charming and clever and sad, all at once. Saying more about it would spoil it.
The Destruction story, “On the Peninsula,” is illustrated by Glenn Fabry and gets an “ehhh.” It doesn’t add much to my understanding of any of the characters, or tell a compelling story—though I suppose to the extent that it’s about a woman who goes seeking Destruction and returns unscathed, it’s unexpected.
The last piece in the collection is about Destiny and is titled “Endless Nights.” Frank Quitely did the art, which is very pretty. You notice I haven’t called it a story, because it isn’t. It’s just telling us about Destiny, and not anything we didn’t know already, either. I have no idea what this is doing here.
Because this is positioned outside the main story arc, I instinctively view it in isolation, to its detriment. However, I don’t think the proportion of good stories is any worse than in other Sandman collections. I can’t recommend that casual readers buy it in hardcover, but I don’t regret buying and reading it.