Books: Graphic Novel

The High Cost of Living (1994), The Time of Your Life (1997)

The High Cost of Living (1994) Neil Gaiman, Chris Bachalo, Mark Buckingham, Dave McKean

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.

Published by Vertigo

September 2005 | Rating: 7/10

The Time of Your Life (1997) Neil Gaiman, Mark Pennington, Chris Bachalo, Mark Buckingham

This may be one of favorite Neil Gaiman graphic novels.

Foxglove is on tour and Hazel is home with Alvie, the child she was pregnant with in The High Cost of Living. Foxglove is falling apart at the seems, and Hazel has made a deal whose time is up.

And I really, really like Larry.

At it's very essence, this is a love story about Foxglove and Hazel. Except of course that it's more than that. Because it's also the story of parents' love for their child, and the sacrifices that friends are willing to make for each other.

Death is here, only she's far more passive, mostly listening to Hazel, and to Foxglove. And I think, somehow, that I prefer her this way to how she is in The High Cost of Living. Maybe it's the way that she listens. It makes me wish that I could really listen like that, instead of the distracted listening that I often do. Because there is something about listening that is a gift, but it's not a gift that a lot of people have.

I do wish I had the cover you see here. Not that I don't like Dave McKean's work, but there's something about Death as she is drawn that I find utterly appealing, and this cover just isn't quite the same.

Published by Vertigo

September 2005 | Rating: 9/10