Fantasy Mystery Comics Non-Fiction Fiction

Death: The High Cost of Living

Monday, September 19, 2005

Death: The High Cost of Living (1994) Neil Gaiman

It’s hardly a surprise that Neil Gaiman would write a comic about Death. In Sandman she was usually far more likable than her brother, Dream, the hero of the series.

In one of the early Sandman episodes we learn that once a century, Death takes corporeal form to spend a day living. Death: The High Cost of Living tells of that day.

The story starts with Mad Hettie, who appeared randomly throughout Sandman. Mad Hettie is 250 years old, and lives on the streets. And I can’t decide if she is actually mad. Then the story moves to Sexton Furnival, a 16 year old boy who is doing his level best to be an unlikable teenager.

In addition to Mad Hettie, we also get to see Foxglove and Hazel, which I quite liked. (And Death: The Time of Your Life is very much about them.)

Sexton eventually meets Death, who is spending her day in a century alive. She is a girl named Didi, whose family was recently killed, and I’m not entirely how sure that worked–though it seems that the universe created her and her dead family whole cloth and inserted them into people’s memories. (In retrospect, they also did that on Buffy, with Dawn)

It’s rather strange how naive Didi/Death is. Perhaps because she isn’t truly Death when she is alive, she can hold only a portion of Death’s knowledge, and so it is as if she is born new.

I like the story, although it’s quite short. Mostly because I liked Death, and Neil Gaiman manages to suck us into the story and make us care about Sexton, despite the fact that he doesn’t want to be liked.
Rating: 7/10

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