I remember reading somewhere that Bleak House is one of Neil Gaiman s favorite novels, and The Kindly Ones, the penultimate volume of The Sandman, reminded me a great deal of Bleak House Like the typical Dickens novel, The Sandman series contains a multitude of characters and plot threads, and The Kindly Ones is the volume which, gathering these characters and threads together, brings them to climax though not to conclusion, a matter reserved for the next volume, The Wake It is precisely this movement toward climax that reminded me of reading Bleak House somewhere near the end of Dicken s narrative, with about one hundred pages remaining, you can sense the characters arranging their final tableaux, the plot threads combining into a finished tapestry This is a huge endeavor, and the reader can feel the novel, like a great engine, moving deliberatively forward, and the readers excitement increases, for he knows he has almost reached his destination This is the tale of Morpheus struggle with The Furies known euphemistically as The Kindly Ones and a few other enemies Dream has acquired over the years Loki, Peaseblossom, Hippolyta Hall also a Fury, from DC Comics , and Thessaly last of the 1,000 year old witches It also resolves a few other stories, including those of Rose Walker and the fairy Cluracan.It is sad to see this series brought to a close, but The Kindly Ones is an excellent beginning to what one can sense as the great machine of the story moves forward will be a satisfying ending. I ve rated both this and The Sandman Vol 7 Brief Lives 5 stars, but I think I liked Brief Lives better, for the sole reason that it contained scenes with Delerium Here, Delerium is searching for someone again, this time her talking dog Barnabas, and the scene where they re reunited was charming as all get out.Practically every other character we ve met along the way shows up in the Kindly Ones, and it was just proof that Gaiman is the master of making everything he writes have a purpose It was very, very impressive how it all tied together I know that some people say you can read most of these as stand alones, but the pay off for following them in order is not to be missed.I haven t mentioned Morpheous much in my reviews, despite the series being named after him I ll take a moment now to say that his evolution as a character is very subtle, but very well done The scene between him and his big sister Death towards the end were beyond touching.I m not sure how I waited so long to read this series that is a lie, it took me forever to realize that libraries carry comics, and I couldn t afford to buy them all before , but thank goodness I finally did. The most ambitious of all Sandman albums, the highpoint of the series, the convergence of all the random plot threads and part time characters into a spectacular denouement The tragic nature of the story doesn t come as a surprise the seeds were planted right from the start, with Morpheus imprisoned in a country manor in England in Preludes and Nocturnes and reflecting on his past mistakes and ways to redeem them Every subsequent volume added to the morbid and apparently inevitable conflict that pits the Lord of Dreaming against persons he has mishandled, intentionally or not A second source for Morpheus woes comes from his fascination with mortals and their brief lives, making him lose his immmortal detachment from the affairs of ants.The resolution is not a surprise, given the clear portents of doom that became quite explicit in the previous two volumes The Orpheus story arc and the final images of the reality storm at the World s End Inn What did surprise me was Morpheus apathy, his resignation and quasi passive acceptance of the events he takes some counter measures initially through a resurrected Corinthian , watching the destruction of his castle and of his closest allies as if it was irrelevant to the inner conflict going on inside his mind Thte most important question asked of Morpheus with absolute power at your disposal, where are the restrains on that power coming from Tradition A Higher Power Self discipline Remorse Boredom The Kindly Ones from the title represent another incarnation of the Maid Mother Crone magic infused female entity, in this case inspired by Greek mythology as avatars of revenge They have had many names Erinyes, Furies, Fates, and are pictured knitting the threads of men s destinies and cutting them with scissors or less arbitrarily I believe they appear in a similar form in other Gaiman novels Stardust and it is interesting to watch here how they relate to the Endless family older powerful ruthless I must confess that I found some of the characters confusing at the beginning, partly because of the artwork I will come back to this and partly because I needed to go back to their initial story arc to remember where they come from and what their grudge against Morpheus is In trying to link together and to close too many of the open plot lines, Gaiman diluted a little the impact of the main conflict between the Endless and the Furies Or my short time memory is too feeble to keep track of what bugs Rose from The Doll s House , Thessaly from A Game of You , Lucifer and Loki from Season of Mists , Cluracan and Nuala from the Faerie realm, and so on Most important to the plot turns out to be the former superhero Hipollyta Hall, whose husband was killed by Morpheus and whose son Daniel was born in the Dreaming I did manage to remember them after three or four issues, and the later issues became compulsive reading, making this 13 issue album seem like one of the shortest The story practically begs for a couple of re reads to get at all the nuances and symbolism that maybe got lost in the rush to find out how the conflict is resolved and how each player fits in.I liked the storytelling as much as ever My four star rating comes courtesy of Marc Hempel, who got to draw the most important album in the collection I can see, at a cold analytical level, why he was chosen and why his artwork might appeal to a younger generation of readers, who are used than me with the modern, angular, deformed, manga inspired draughtsmanship that features so prominently on new Cartoon Network animations and new comic titles To me it looks ugly and lazy, as if anatomical correctness and attention to detail are irrelevant to the raw energy needed to get noticed and be cool in the late 90 s and early oughts To give an example of what I actually like, my favorite arc in the album is the short story illustrated by Charles Vess, a smaller family drama centered on deceit, domestic violence and revenge with horror elements.Conclusion five stars for the story, three for the presentation, but don t mind me, I m just an old fashioned grinch, and out of sync with modern trends A must read, but if you got so far into the Sandman, you are than likely already a fan. I guess it s like Sammy Hagar sang nay, emoted in a criminally underrated deep cut off the For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge album dream another dream this dream is over.Sandman has never shied away from going into dark places reading it is often akin to that time when you were a kid and were forced to go down into your grandmother s unfinished basement to fetch a jar of homemade jam Logically, you knew nothing bad would happen, but it was still terrifying to open the dingy door at the top of the stairs, flip the light switch and hear that single, low watt yellow light bulb buzz to life, and work your way slowly down the creaky wooden steps, taking care to avoid the fifth stair, where the head of a nail stuck out just a little bit You knew that your stockinged feet would struggle to find traction on the cement floor, and every shadowy shape the boxes stuffed with Christmas decorations, your grandfather s work boots, the old fashioned hulk of a furnace squatting in the corner looked menacing As you slipped and slid your way across the floor toward the humming old refrigerator pea green under the fluorescent light that you didn t turn on, creepily gray in the half light of the bulb above the stairs you heard the house above you settle and groan, an inhuman exhalation, and a skittering sound a mouse, perhaps, or maybe a roach maybe nothing at all but your imagination set you on edge The fridge was hard to open, and you needed to tug hard once, twice, a third time, all the while wondering what it was you could feel lurking behind you When you finally managed to get the door open, the jars of pickled vegetables looked like the dismembered remains of your unfortunate preserve seeking predecessors, and it was all you could do to steady your breath and focus on the task of finding the jar of strawberry jam you were sent into the underworld for At last, you saw it, and you grabbed for it like it was Excalibur being thrust forth by the Lady of the Lake, a talisman to protect you from the suffocating shadows Skittering back across the floor, the jar clutched tightly against your pounding heart to make sure it didn t shatter if you fell, you stumbled back up the stairs, somehow staying mindful of that nail, and slammed the door behind you With a sigh of relief, you handed the jar to your grandmother With the light of day streaming in through the windows and the sight of plastic covered couches and lace doilies awaiting you in the living room, you once again felt safe, and even silly Of course there was nothing in this house that could hurt you You decided to reward yourself with a cookie, so you went to the pantry, opened it, and walked in, only to find yourself face to face with the CREEPIEST CLOWN COOKIE JAR KNOWN TO MAN You screamed, backed away frantically, and found your dour grandmother shaking her head at you and telling you no cookies before dinner.That, my friends, is what reading Sandman this volume in particular is like Here s the funny part, though that s a GOOD thing I ll comment extensively on the series as a whole in reviewing the concluding tenth volume, but suffice it to say that this volume got deep, dark, and intense A good microcosm for the series as a whole, and brilliant storytelling from Mr Gaiman CrimineyYou know what s NOT an underrated deep cut off the F.U.C.K album Spanked Look, I love Sammy Hagar as much as anyone who I m not related to and or very good friends with the guy s my all time favorite vocalist, and he s one of the best pure entertainers I ve ever seen see him live and you ll know what I m talking about but the world was collectively made dumber by that bone r headed song about a phone sex line with lyrics like all you bad, bad boys call her up on the spank line If Hagar hadn t later written Returning of the Wish and somewhat restored the cosmic intellectual balance, I would demand an apology As it stands, we ll let it slide. 6 starsNow, you are probably looking at the title of the ninth volume of Neil Gaiman s fantastic Sandman series, which is called The Kindly Ones and you are probably thinking to yourself about how this volume will be all sunshine and roses Definitely not Do not let the innocent title of this volume fool you The ninth volume The Kindly Ones is probably the darkest volume out of all the Sandman series since A Game of You and yet this is probably the best volume out of the entire Sandman series ever created Lyta Hall also known as Hippolyta Hall was always on edge when it came to taking care of her baby son Daniel, who was born after her husband Hector had died One night however, when Lyta Hall decided to leave her baby son Daniel in the care of a babysitter while she went for a job application, she finds out that her baby son had been kidnapped as soon as she got home and she desperately wanted to find him Unfortunately, when Lyta believes that the worse has happened to Daniel after there were no clues tracing to him, Lyta goes into an emotional shock and a deep rage where she confronts the Kindly Ones in the dream world and wants them to help her seek vengeance on Dream, the Sandman for she believed that Dream was the one who harmed her baby Can Dream protect his dream realm from the forces of darkness Now I just have to say that this was the LONGEST volume I have ever read from the Sandman series as it was well over two hundred pages worth of disturbing scenes and plot development, but it was worth the read Neil Gaiman s writing is just as brilliant as ever in this volume as the story is exciting and creepy at the same time and it is like once you started reading this volume, you really cannot put this graphic novel down since there is so much excitement building up on each page regarding the mystery surrounding the Kindly Ones I also loved the fact that all of the characters that we were introduced to in the Sandman series all make an appearance in this volume, sort of giving this volume a finale feel as everything is set in place for the huge battle that awaits the Sandman I really loved the way that Neil Gaiman focused so much of the story on the characters as I was really interested in hearing about Matthew the Raven s obsession about finding out what happened to the other ravens before him since I wanted to also find out about Matthew s origins and his connections with the ravens But probably the part about the graphic novel I was most impressed with was how Neil Gaiman developed the character Lyta Hall and it was apparent from the previous Sandman books that Lyta harbored a deep hatred for Dream because she believes that he killed her husband Hector in the Dream world It was definitely a frightening and intense experience seeing how Lyta s hatred for Dream could cause so much turmoil for everyone involved, even though it was based on her worst assumptions about what happened to her son Daniel Marc Hempel, Richard Case, D Israeli, Teddy Kristiansen, Glyn Dillon, Charles Vess, Dean Ormston, and Kevin Nowlan s artwork were brilliant creative in this novel and they all contributed well to the story at hand I will admit that some of the artwork is a bit blocky and I would have expected epic illustrations to accompany this epic volume, but these illustrations do bring a sort of uniqueness to the story and I still really enjoyed the artwork being done in this volume.Some of the problems I did had with this graphic novel is that some of the artwork looks a bit cartoony to me since some of the artwork made some of the characters have blocky heads, which made it hard for me to take the story seriously at times Although, I will admit that the artwork did provide some creativity to the story Also, there is so much disturbing content in this volume which involves a mother losing her son, which would be upsetting for any parent who has fears of losing their own children There are also some gory images in this volume which involves birds pecking out people s eyes out, which would be extremely disturbing to anyone who is not a fan of gory imagery.Overall, The Sandman The Kindly Ones is easily one of the best volumes in the Sandman series as it clearly seems like the true finale for the Sandman series and is full of disturbing and intense moments that will go down in history as the greatest moments in comic book history Now that I am interested in seeing what will become of Dream and his crew, I will now start reading the tenth volume, The Sandman, Vol 10 The Wake to find out This is the penultimate arc in Neil Gaiman s original Sandman run The seeds for Dream s ultimate fate has been foreshadowed in previous storylines, with its seeds reaching fruition here The actual machinations for his demise are contained in this story as we see characters with a vendetta against Morpheus working towards his downfall This is the longest arc in the title, with the appropriately thickest trade paperback, taking over a year to complete it I thought that this was a bargain when I bought it, having a larger page count than say, World s End, the eighth Sandman trade paperback.I need not say about Gaiman s writing on Sandman His work, to craft stories about stories for a mature readership was an impetus to the launch of Vertigo as a line to house Sandman and other titles from his peers with the same adult themes His achievements in other literary forms notwithstanding, it would his work in this title that would define his career and be the his work that would be most fondly remembered.Much furor was raised regarding the choice of Marc Hempel to provide the art for this critical chapter His geometric and expressive style is a departure from the lush and realistic art of earlier stories It was revealed that Hempel wasn t the first choice of Gaiman for this story, but nevertheless the choice was inspired How can one depict the death of an idea and the personification of stories One could only hope to capture a rude impression of the titanic between blood vengeance and an abstract concept The end came when Morpheus realized that even though he was set in his ways, change is inevitable It will come even for him He couldn t abandon his duties as Dream Lord as his brother abandoned his own realm, so he welcomes the touch of his sister Death so that another aspect of him would rule his kingdom in his stead Like stories, his end was only the beginning of another.Postscript.Gaiman revealed that Mike Mignola would have his first choice and it would ve happened had his schedule allowed it I for one would like to see Gaiman collaborate with Mignola A pity it wouldn t be on Sandman But there are other stories and I m pretty sure it is already in Lucien s Library of Dreams. The Penultimate Volume To The Phenomenal Sandman Series Distraught By The Kidnapping And Presumed Death Of Her Son, And Believing Morpheus To Be Responsible, Lyta Hall Calls The Ancient Wrath Of The Furies Down Upon Him A Former Superheroine Blames Morpheus For The Death Of Her Child And Summons An Ancient Curse Of Vengeance Against The Lord Of Dream The Kindly Ones Enter His Realm And Force A Sacrifice That Will Change The Dreaming Forever Collecting The Sandman And Vertigo Jam Just about all the disparate plot lines and characters come together in this volume, even several that originally appeared to be random In only this aspect speaking of aspect, the facet of a gemstone is my favorite image in this book , I was reminded of how while reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, I was so amazed at how everything came together that immediately afterward I reread all the HP books just to see how Rowling did it.As this is volume 9, it seems appropriate that there are three sets of three the Erinyes, the Gorgons and the Fates Though perhaps there are even a reference to the Hesperides a mention of the Morrigan the three women in a nursing home, one of whom tells a great fairytale folktale or perhaps there is merely one one entity revealing its various aspects at the appropriate time As I said of Gaiman s American Gods, if anything seems familiar to you ex Dream s motivation , it s because you know your mythological archetypes.My one criticism is only female characters seem to have fallen in love with Dream or have I forgotten someone or is it that men dream differently than women It seems to me that at least one of the male characters should be in love with Dream even if Death is cuter and perkier Best Sandman volume so far Sadly illustrations are worst in series and this is series that has pretty bad illustrations overall. I want to learn how to draw a pentagram, into which I will catch Neil Gaiman to make ask him to tell me bedtime stories every night.