Today’s Super Comics — Death: The High Cost of Living #1-3 (1993)

death_the_high_cost_of_living_vol_1_1Neil Gaiman does Death Takes a Holiday in his distinctive Neil Gaimany way.

Death, or Didi, is an off-kilter teenaged girl who gets to be mortal one day a century. She befriends a depressed young guy with the unfortunate name of Sexton. A very old madwoman seeks Death’s help in finding her heart. And a blind, creepy guy wants Death’s sigil.

And by the end, it’s all remarkably uplifting.

“It always ends. That’s what gives it value.”

Though this is a Sandman spinoff, Death: The High Cost of Living stands entirely on its own. I can’t say for certain, but it might even be more effective without prior knowledge. There’s almost nothing in these three issues that’s blatantly supernatural. The fantasy elements exist entirely on the periphery, which you hardly even realize until after the fact because everything feels so magical. If you read just this story, you might almost believe that Didi is merely a troubled girl who has retreated into the delusion that she’s Death.

An excellent read from the early days of DC’s Vertigo imprint.

Writer: Neil Gaiman

Artists: Chris Bachalo and Mark Buckingham

Cover: Dave McKean

Publisher: DC Comics (Vertigo)

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; Death: The High Cost of Living (TPB)

Appropriate For: ADULTS ONLY

Today’s Super Comic — The Sandman #8 (1989)

sandman-8There are lots of ways for a character to make a great first impression on me. One foolproof way is by referencing Mary Poppins.

And that’s how we meet The Sandman’s personification of death. In Neil Gaiman’s world, Death appears as a lively teenaged girl, and she’s the older sister of the series’ protagonist, Dream. No Grim Reaper clichés here.

Death debuts in #8, which is when the series truly started becoming amazing. Dream has just completed a quest that defined the series’ opening arc, and now he’s feeling adrift and purposeless. So his sister comes along to check on him, and he tags along as she goes about her routine of guiding the newly deceased into the afterlife, reminding Dream of his own responsibilities. Gaimain makes the right call in not showing us Death’s realm; instead, we just see her kindness and tact as she greets diverse people who are all about to embark on the same journey.

It’s an excellent issue that stands on its own while also promising the greatness to come throughout the rest of the series…and the also-excellent Death spinoff miniseries.

Writer: Neil Gaiman

Artist: Mike Dringenberg

Inker: Malcolm Jones III

Publisher: DC Comics (Vertigo)

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; included in The Sandman vol. 1: Preludes & Nocturnes (TPB)

Appropriate For: ADULTS ONLY