Page 45 Review by Stephen
"Have you thought about getting help? I mean, seeing a doctor, or a priest, or someone? I really think you should see someone."
"Oh, that's no problem, Sexton. Sooner or later I see everyone."
Death of the Endless from Neil Gaiman's SANDMAN:
She's funny, she's sweet, she's gorgeous and gothic. She's enormously kind and very good company - as you'll find out for yourself one day.
But once every hundred years Death becomes human to glimpse mortality from the other side of Charon's coins. In THE HIGH COST OF LIVING she bumps into a lank-haired and disillusioned sixteen-year-old dropout called Sexton who was hell-bent on committing suicide until he stares Death right in the face while buried under a refrigerator on a garbage dump. It's not the best first impression.
Eager to sample life's pleasures while she can - chief amongst them, music and food - Death drags Sexton along for a night on the town together, taking in the first live gig of new singer-songwriter Foxglove. Foxglove's pregnant girlfriend Hazel is there but two other individuals have made a note of Death's diary, and neither are half so welcoming.
Utterly charming, both the story and its protagonist are gloriously optimistic and remind us to appreciate all that we have in front of us while time allows, even if it's just a bagel, a hot-dog, a compliment or smile of a passing stranger.
THE TIME OF YOUR LIFE is far more sobering, for there is always a price to be paid. A few years have passed during which Foxglove's musical career has taken off and Hazel has had baby Alvie. They've moved from New York to Los Angeles where they live happily together in a vast, splendid mansion where -
No, they don't. Foxglove is forever on promotional tour leaving her "secretary" Hazel at home. Foxglove's second album has already garnered over 650,000 advance orders and she's about to appear on Letterman after which she is bound for Britain. Two men have her back: her agent Larry and tour-manager Boris. Foxglove wants to come out of the closet she never personally shut herself in no matter the professional presumptions, but worldly-wise Larry advises against it, citing all manner of PR pitfalls. Plus Foxglove hasn't exactly been faithful.
Worse still, she failed to listen to Hazel when Hazel told Foxglove that she and baby Alvie had bumped into an old acquaintance outside their mansion one rainy night last February. She was funny, she was sweet, she was gorgeous and gothic. And I am so very sorry, but there's only one reason why you would usually do that.
These are such very gentle tales, laden with wisdom and wit, which will make you think about how you conduct your own lives, much like DAYTRIPPER did for me. There are many very good questions and the answers may not be easy, but they are surprisingly simple.
Chris Bachalo's design sense is as glorious as his sweet, chic portraiture and oh how I loved his two-tone chequered backdrops! Unlike his equally pretty but impenetrable pages of late, there are no silly and so-easily-confusing across-the-page layouts: this is as accessible as it gets!
Additionally so skilled is Mark Buckingham that, when Gaiman was deserted by Bachalo halfway through DEATH: THE TIME OF YOUR LIFE to join Marvel, many remain unaware that it was Buckingham who pencilled the pages thereafter. Bucky is one of those rare artists who is not just an exceptional, individual force in his own right, but also an accomplished chameleon. He can do Chris Bachalo as well as Bachalo himself, and many other artists to boot. That, let me tell you, is no mean feat.
In addition there are so many extras that it is ridiculously good value for money. There's the refreshingly non-alarmist yet candid and cautionary HIV / AIDS awareness six-pager illustrated by Dave McKean called 'Death Talks About Life' which guest-stars a deliciously embarrassed John Constantine, a sheepishly proffered banana and a condom. All education should be entertainment. There's also 'The Wheel' from 9-11: THE WORLD'S FINEST COMIC BOOK WRITERS & ARTISTS TELL STORIES TO REMEMBER (bit of a rarity, that); Death's first appearance from SANDMAN #8 then #20; 'A Winter's Tale' from VERTIGO: WINTER'S EDGE #2, 'Death And Venice' from SANDMAN: ENDLESS NIGHTS; and finally a whole gallery of swoonaway pin-ups.
Death as a sex symbol: how very Shakespearian.