“You cannot seek destruction and return unscathed”–Desire
Brief Lives returns us to the main arc. It’s drawn by one of my favorite comic book artist, Jill Thompson (who also drew the short “Parliament of Rooks” from the previous volume, Fables and Reflections. She has worked on The Invisibles, Swamp Thing, Wonder Woman, and her own Scary Godmother series. This is also the first story arc under the Vertigo banner.
This arc focuses mostly on Destruction, the only Endless family member who has abandoned his or her post. Delirium has been concerned for him since his departure. At first, she asks Desire and Despair to accompany her on her search, but they refuse. She goes to Dream instead, who reluctantly agrees, hoping it will distract him from brooding over his failed love. He arranges transportation with an old god named Pharrel (formerly a Babylonian deity named Pharamond) Yet everyone who once knew Destruction is met with calamity and death every time Death or Delirium attempt to find out where Destruction is. Dream decides not to continue so as not to endanger any more lives. This infuriates Delirium, who returns to her realm and locks it in anger. Dream then briefly consults Bast, who informs him that she lied about knowing where Destruction resides (tying up a loose end from Season of Mists, which is where we last saw the Egyptian goddess of cats).
Later, Death confronts Dream about his behavior toward his sister. (I love how she tells him Delirium “isn’t exactly stable”–what an understatement!) At her insistence, he enters Delirium’s realm to apologize and they resume their search. They first visit Destiny, who prophesies events that will occur in The Kindly Ones, the 9th volume of the series.
We finally meet Destruction. He abandoned his post to prevent himself from being destroyed. In fact, we learn that everyone in the Endless is eventually replaced. This is similar to what Piers Anthony envisioned in his excellent Incarnations of Immortality series. As for why so many of those who attempted to give Dream information about his whereabouts died, Destruction had used his power as a safeguard on them. He does not wish to return, but gives his dog Barnabas to Delirium as a parting gift. Barnabas is a great character, constantly snarking Destruction every time we see them together.
Dream returns to his realm and is now kinder to its inhabitants. We meet another member of the Dreaming in this story, Mervyn Pumpkinhead, who becomes more important in The Kindly Ones. He then tells Orpheus’s custodian, Andros, to bury Orpheus’s head and give him rest, causing blood to be spilled on the ground. Despair gathers a flower from the ground that touched the blood and brings it to Desire. Desire is pleased that Dream has finally spilled family blood, as she finally has some of the victory she has sought against him. But now she is frightened because it means she may also be in danger if she is not careful in plotting his demise in the future.
This is another excellent volume. I am eager to see what new plans Desire and Despair will concoct. Join me in June when I review Sandman’s final short collection, World’s End.