Customer Reviews: The Sandman Vol. 8: World's End
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on July 8, 1999
Brant Tucker and Charlene Mooney are two travellers making their way cross-country, when a snowstorm (in June, no less!) and an otherworldly animal-beast in the middle of a highway interrupts their travel, and the car crashes. Lost in the blizzard, Brant stumbles upon The World's End Inn, a free house. A tavern populated by people and creatures from different worlds and times, displaced from their homes by a `reality storm', an event so cosmically huge, it resonates across time and space.
So, to kill time until the storm passes, they tell stories. The art in theWorld's End framing sequences is top-notch stuff by Bryan Talbot and Mark Buckingham. Very tight, its realism contrasting nicely against the art in some of the other stories.
The first story, "A Tale of Two Cities", the story of a man (literally) lost in the dreams of his city. While a favorite of Sandman editor Karen Berger, I must confess I found it a little puzzling and indecipherable. And this is no fault of the artist, because the separation of text and art works very well. The format almost makes up for the lame story. My least favorite in the book.
Cluracan's Tale was much more enjoyable, starring and narrated by the lovable, oft-inebriated, arrogant emmisary of Queen Titania of Faerie. Cluracan is sent to a city-state run by a corrupt, piggish king, who is, by a quirk of politics and bloodlines, is also the city's spiritual leader. What follows is an adventurous story of murder, family helping family, and political sabotage. The art's very nice here, conveying a very interesting fairy-tale look, although Cluracan, Titania, and Nuala look nothing at all like they do in this or any of the other books.
Hob's Leviathan, a story of the immortal Hob Gadling (my favorite Sandman character, bar none) told by Jim, a young man who met Hob on a Ship in 1914. A stowaway is discoverd, whom Hob knows as a fellow immortal (in case you didn't know, he's the king in the story of the fruit of eternal life). Jim's fascination with the sailboats becomes the readers own. The crew of the Sea Witch are given real personalities here, and are shown to be real people. After the ship is nearly capsized by a sea serpent, every one of these grown men cry. This was my favorite story in the novel, mostly because of Michael Zulli's wonderful art. While sketchy and bland compared to his work in The Wake, it's still beautiful and works with the story wonderfully to convey the wonder and grandeur of those ships.
In The Golden Boy, the story of cheesy 70's comic character Prez Rickard, the teenage president, is updated courtesy Gaiman and Madman Comics creator Mike Allred. Given a Christ-like sensibilty, Prez becomes not only the hippest president of all time, appearing on Saturday Night Live skits with John Belushi, but also the best. He disarms the country's nuclear and biological weapons, and puts education back as the #1 priority. And he does it on his own, despite the evil Boss Smiley's offers. Both Death and Dream put in welcome appearances here, after Prez's passing on. Mike Allred's work in always a welcome sight, and I doubt that his ironically animated style would have looked half as good on any other Sandman project.
Cerements, a story of a young apprentice in the necropolis Litharge, a city whose chief industry is the `funerary arts'. After performing a disposal of a corpse, young Petrefax and his disposal party share tales, one of which Destruction pops up in, to give a little history of the previous necropolis, and the death of his sister, the first Despair. Lots of threads of started here which re-appear when members of the Endless return to Litharge in The Wake. Despite the EC-Comics-like horror-style in which it's drawn, the story holds a lot of emotion and warmth.
The final story is Charlene's. Maybe not a story, but as Stephen King puts it, in his introduction, "a scathing soliloquy." Finally, a funeral in the sky is witnessed. No one in the tavern knows whose it is, but all are agreed, it is the cause of the reality storm. Afterwards, some leave, some stay.
Don't be deceived. Ignore the title. Despite what your senses are telling you, this is NOT a Sandman book. Morpheus shows up on maybe a half-dozen pages. And that's what's so cool about it. There's very little of the grand, and at-times head-swelling epic of Morpheus stuff in here. This was my introduction into the world of Sandman, and a very gentle introduction it is. With some of the best stories in the series to boot.
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on June 20, 2012
WORLD'S END is a great collection of short stories, but it works best as part of the Sandman series. If you have not caught up by reading volumes 1-7, I'd suggest finishing those volumes before moving to this one. It's not absolutely necessary (this volume takes place largely outside the continuity of the universe), it helps if you are familiar with Gaiman's style and characters. If you have not read any Sandman yet, you're in for a treat: The Sandman Vol. 1: Preludes & Nocturnes (New Edition).

WORLD'S END is a 6-issue arc that is composed of 6 short stories. Picking up off of the hefty The Sandman Vol. 7: Brief Lives, Gaiman takes the listeners outside the Sandman narrative for a handful of musings. WORLD'S END follows two travelers who mysteriously find themselves lost in a storm. Seeking shelter and safety, the two travelers find their way to World's End, an inn that exists somewhere between space and time. The inn is populated with other wayward travelers, from different times, dimensions, and universes. With everyone stuck at the inn, the patrons pass the time by sharing stories.

These standalone stories range greatly in content, delivery, tone, and characterization. What I admired most about this collection was the range that Gaiman has control over. Each issue's narrative feels almost as if it were written by a different author -- this creates an impressive perceived verisimilitude to the characters' stories. These shifts in tone, however, are nearly seamless. The stories work with the reader and not against them. There's a moment in WORLD'S END when Gaiman is describing a character telling a story in which a character is telling a story about another character telling a story. Sound confusing? In the moment, it makes perfect sense, it's perfectly clear, and it doesn't feel out of place at all. Even though this arc in many ways stands alone outside of the main Sandman narrative, these 6 issues create one complete volume. The editors of the book have removed the issue covers (usually separating stories) to give WORLD'S END a seamless feel. It might not sound like much, but the effect works really well.

Gaiman admits in the acknowledgments that WORLD'S END was inspired by his desire to experiment with other authors. The result is incredibly interesting and beautiful. Each patron's story is pencilled/inked by a different artist as compared to the frame narrative. This conceit adds further depth to these stories; WORLD'S END is a story about the power of stories. While some of these narratives find us encountering Morpheus, he's conspicuously missing for the most of the volume. There's a good reason for that, but readers will have to wait for the final moments of the volume to discover why. The ending is spectacular.

I've read this collection in the original trade-paperback version (released in the mid-90's) and again in the updated version (released in 2012). This new edition contains everything from the previous collection (including Stephen King's introduction), but the color has been restored to reflect Gaiman's intent. The difference isn't jarring, but in the case of WORLD'S END, which relies heavily on the artwork, I'd definitely side with this version. Additionally, this listeing is available on Kindle (and other eReaders). As of recently, readers can read graphic novels/comic books on devices other than Kindle Fire (iPad/Android readers rejoice!)
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on July 25, 2013
When I first started reading it, this collection of short stories seemed to be a somewhat random installment in the Sandman series. The stories were excellent, though. Stranded at the World's End Inn - a tavern for travelers caught in various "reality" storm - each stranded wayfarer shares a story of their choosing. One of the faery folk from past stories is stranded there, and he tells his tale, which allows us to see Dream. Although each tale is separate, they all incorporate characters from previous collections. It's nice to see such continuity in a series.

So, all of these stories occur during a storm that has stranded travelers from various worlds and ages. But, the cause of the storm is never mentioned ... until the end when it's revealed. And my oh my, what a revelation. The two-page spread of a figure walking through the sky was powerful. But when I turned the page, saw the illustration and realized what had caused the storm, I literally had to catch my breath. If you read Volume 8 before Volume 9, it is a foreshadowing. But because I had read Volume 9 before Volume 8, I knew exactly who had died.
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on August 13, 1999
Travelers all converge at a Tavern at the end of the world to sit out a snowstorm. They pass the time by telling stories. The stories make up each issue and quite often the stories are inseparable from their narrators. Many familiar Sandman characters pop up such as Hob Gadlin and Cluaracan of faerie in the most entertaining of the stories. Even though the Sandman barely figures into the stories, his presence is felt; but what makes everything work is that different artists do the different stories in their own styles. In the case of Mike Allred (the creator of Madman one of the funnest super hero books in recent years) his style works perfectly with the tale of Prez. The last issue is a foreshadowing of things to come... Brace yourself for "The Kindly Ones."
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on April 25, 2016
Well of course you have to know how it ends. But of course too, and especially in this case, the end is not a good place to start. Try to read these sequentially. And that doesn't leave me a whole lot to say about this one without giving the end away, so... this is the last volume of the coolest, most imaginative graphic novel series ever written. Neil Gaiman, along with Garth Ennis and Frank Miller, changed everything for comic book fans. They transformed the American graphic novel into some of the best of all 20th century American Literature.
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Imagine if the "Canterbury Tales" were told not by ordinary people on a pilgrimage, but magical beings in an otherworldly inn. That is the framing device for Neil Gaiman's eighth collection of Sandman comics, "World's End." Morpheus and the Endless have only small parts to play in this story, but it's enough to link together the assorted short stories -- and through it all, Gaiman conjures a sense of wonder and fear.

On a snowy night, a strange beast causes a car crash. Brant manages to carry his coworker Charlene to a nearby inn known as the World's End. It's probably a good thing that Brant seems slightly concussed, because inside are things he probably doesn't think are real -- gods, centaurs, faeries and other weird things that have also taken shelter.

To pass the time, they tell stories -- stories of slumbering cities; the Cluracan's clash with a vile psychopomp in a dying city; a cabin-boy glimpsing the strange mysteries of the sea; Prez Rickard, the greatest president in history; of the necropolis of Letharge; and of the mysteries that dwell inside and outside the inn...

One of Neil Gaiman's greatest skills is to make you see the terrifying, wondrous possibilities of fantasy -- of many worlds like apples on a tree, vast godlike entities walking through a starry sky, and forces so alien and powerful that it makes the spirit quake. Despite the Chauceresque setup of "World's End," these possibilities swim just under the surface.

So you don't see EVERYTHING in the World's End. It's all mirrors and smoke, shadows and flames -- and when you catch a glimpse, you KNOW that there's more to it. But you'll never be the same again.

But even if you take the stories on their own, they're pretty entertaining tales -- some are set in our world, while others are in weird places like the necropolis. There's a lot of weird macabre humor (the drunken Cluracan manages to be both scary AND funny) interspersed with the stories, and the human characters get intertwined with the World's End themselves by the volume's finale.

Morpheus only pops up a few times (mostly to rescue the main characters and pop back out), so a lot of the emphasis is on the people gathered at the inn. Some are frightening, some are comforting, some are weird, and some... are just drunk. The most disappointing part of this collection is the fact that you know there are more stories there, still not told. (Come on, how about that inkeeper?!)

"The Sandman Volume 8: World's End" is a brief stopover before the Sandman series' grand finale, reminding us of the beautiful, terrible world it inhabits.
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on April 24, 2014
First up, all of the 10 volumes of The Sandman novels deserve 5 stars. They are a phenomenal acheivement in not only graphic novels but in storytelling itself. The story is complex and cerebral and the characters so well developed that Sandman is one of my favorite stories period. The novels are intensely violent and often disturbing but everything that happens serves a purpose, and nothing happens by chance or just for the sake of things happening. Something that happens in one volume may become vitally important 3 or 4 volumes later. By the end of the 10th volume everything has come full circle with an appropriate and satisfying end.

With regards to Volume 8 itself it is not my favorite volume but it is still very good. The main storyline being that two wayward travellers make their way to a tavern called the World's End where a variety of interesting characters - not all human engage in storytelling.

As far as the volume's content on the Kindle Fire - I was hesitant to abandon the volumes in print worried that the Kindle Fire might provide a more difficult viewing experience. That hasn't turned out the be the case. The novel is easy to read, you can scan in to specific boxes, and the colors are vibrant.
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on March 17, 2015
Excellent Story. Highly recommended for a reason.

As a comic book fan I know most people probably imagine the world of comics as being about super heroes or Sunday Funnies. But, the comic medium is worthy of so much more.

Sandman is that "much more". The story is excellent, and is wonderfully executed. You're going to want to get all of these at once, because they can't be put down.

If you're already a comic book fan, you've likely heard of Sandman. So what are you waiting for? Read this already!

If you aren't already a comic book fan, maybe it's time to give it a chance. If any story is going to change your mind about the possibilities of this art form, this is the one.
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on January 14, 2014
I hate to say it, but World's End is the most disappointed I have been in Neil Gaiman's Sandman collection. The above four-star rating is a rounded up, generous score based mainly on the better stories and the excellent artwork.

World's End is another collection of short stories, and like previous short story collections, each individual tale is meant to illustrate it's own theme. Unfortunately, this is one of those instances where the writer spends so much time on the theme that they forget to make the story itself interesting. 'Fables and Reflections' is still my favorite of the Sandman stories, with 'Three Septembers and a January', 'August', and 'Ramadan' being stand out issues. Those stories managed to blend theme, artwork, and interesting plot much more cohesively than this collection did.

The stories in this book have the framing device of 'people stuck at inn by a storm swapping tales to pass the time'. It's a pretty good storytelling method, and it reaches some real 'inception' levels of meta humor when the people in the stories start telling stories. But that type of humor can only get you so far.

And, I've mentioned the artwork, but seriously, there are a few panels in the final part of the book that are simply hauntingly beautiful.
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These are good stories. Properly speaking, they are barely 'Sandman' stories: I think the Sandman makes just one cameo appearance. They're still good stories.
The format is familiar: strangers wait out a storm at an inn unfamiliar to all of them. They pass the time exchanging stories. OK, it's an old bottle, but Gaiman fills it with new wine. The stories range from the biographical to the fantastic and satiric.
The most mythic story, I think, takes place in the politics of a world much like modern America, or maybe 70s America. Mythology isn't about distant times, it's about grand heroes and their quests - I like to be reminded of that occasionally.
I usually read comics for the artwork first and writing second. The various artists in this book are all capable enough, but that's not what carries the book. I was quite happy to be pulled along by the story-telling.
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