When I was growing up, trips to the bookstore with my mother were a regular treat. No sarcasm.
I would ask her how much I could spend, she would give me a limit, and then we'd part ways for at least an hour.
There were difficult decisions to be made. $25 could be split so many ways. It could be one to maybe even two hardcover books. It could be up to 5, if I played my cards right, paperback books. Maybe more, if I was feeling Dover-Thrift-y.
Or it could be one graphic novel.
As I didn't have a driver's license until I was almost 19 and didn't have money until I was in my twenties (and not much at that), I relied on my mother's bookstore trips to get the bulk of my graphic novels and comics.
When I was about 15 (maybe a little before I turned 15), I discovered Neil Gaiman's Sandman series, which, the time, had just recently finished its original run. I picked up the first volume collection, "Preludes and Nocturnes" and immediately fell in love.
It was so perfectly paced. So delicately worded. Everything about it was so precisely... meant. The only issue I ever had with it was the quality of the art at times. Which is my major qualm about most comics most of the time.
But the story... the story is the thing.
I continued to read the series, but was only able to buy about one volume per year. Yeah. One per year.
Once I did have a license and some money, I then relied solely on finding the next volume in person. No online purchasing. I'm not sure why I did this, as I love to buy stuff online, but there was something great about walking into a bookstore or comic store, finding the Vertigo books, and looking for the right volume. Often, the one I needed would be the only one missing (currently, this is my issue with Y: The Last Man). But the day I saw it and had the $20+ to buy it? That was a great day.
But then came my super-broke years, coinciding with the heart-breaking realization at the end of Worlds' End, which then I was just stuck with and unable to read the follow-up of.
And I couldn't buy The Kindly Ones for ages yet, because it was so freakin' big and expensive.
The day I got my first big paycheck, I bought it. And read it.
And then I became overworked and at some point forgot that I had already bought and read it. For I bought it again last year. And read it again, saying, "Hmm, I've clearly read this before..." and then noticed there was already a copy (of a different edition version, at least, on my shelf).
But then, this year, I finally bought The Wake. And then proceeded to stare at the cover of my copy of The Wake. I knew what was coming- but would it measure up? Would I be heart-broken to see it end? I know there have been additional stories by Gaiman and others, in more recent years- but this was the original intended story. I knew it was going to have AN ENDING. But I wasn't ready for the ending, despite the thirteen years of build up.
In the end, I spent New Years Day, a terrible blizzard-y day anyway, reading The Wake. And it turns out, really, most of the story was actually already told. Which shouldn't be a surprise, as there had been 9 volumes worth of story the preceded it. But have you ever realized how many long arc multi-part stories often leave ALMOST EVERYTHING IMPORTANT to the last installment? I was expecting that. Instead, I got a well crafted story that had been wrapping things up all along. Something all stories should do but never actually do. Except for this one.
In some ways, it was a little too wrapped up. Half of the issue was indeed the ending and a respectable ending at that. But the rest was... added fluff. I know others will disagree, but I cared a lot more to see the actual wake and fall-out than to read about Shakespeare's life again or about a man and a kitten in a desert. And it made me appreciate those stories less because they came after the fact. I don't know why, exactly, I feel that way.
I thought I would have so many more thoughts on the subject once I finally finished the story. I thought I was going to have my mind blown and fucked with one last and very hard time. But, instead, I was given a lovely story with a lovely end. And I almost feel like I understand what it is to sit side-by-side with Death as you realized "Oh, this is it? Huh." but she continues to sit with you while you come to terms, quite and accepting of everything about you.
Okay, maybe that's not exactly what it feels like. Finishing Sandman was not like meeting Death.
But I don't really know where to go from here. When I finished the previous volumes, my mind would be reeling and I'd be both hopeful to soon pick up the next volume while also cautious of getting one step closer to the end, ending an experience that started when I was a very different person, and through various different versions of myself, I continued to love this series. What would happen when it ended? What would happen when I reached that book with the ominous title of "The Wake".
I don't feel the need to pick up any of the spin-off or follow-ups. Not yet. It's too soon. But I feel like something needs to happen to signify that it was a major thing to finally finish the series. But I don't know what.
Because I don't know what I feel like, having finished it. What do I do now?
I mean, other than continue to think about how to put together an amazing Death costume for C2E2, that is.