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Brief Lives (Sandman)

Brief Lives (1994) is the seventh collection of issues in the DC Comics series, The Sandman. Written by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Jill Thompson, Vince Locke and Dick Giordano, and lettered by Todd Klein.

The issues in the collection first appeared in 1992 and 1993. The collection first appeared in paperback and hardback in 1994.

It was preceded by Fables and Reflections and followed by Worlds' End.

Warning: Wikipedia contains spoilers

This collections perhaps belongs with the first, Preludes and Nocturnes, and the fourth, Season of Mists, as a single storyline collection dealing mostly with the Endless. Picking up on story threads introduced in Season of Mists and the story Orpheus from Fables and Reflections, it features the other Endless more than any other collection. The main story follows Morpheus and his younger sister Delirium on a quest to find their brother, Destruction, who abandoned his realm and his responsibilities many years previously. The quest costs the lives of many of the pair's mortal contacts; this, it transpires later, is a result of 'mechanisms' Destruction set up to protect himself from discovery when he left. Eventually, the pair do track Destruction down, with the help of Morpheus' son Orpheus. In return, Orpheus demands a boon of his father; he wishes to die, and bound by his sense of obligation and propriety, Morpheus cannot do anything but consent to this. This shedding of family blood is in turn a key plot point in the ninth collection, The Kindly Ones.

The meeting with Destruction is perhaps the centre of the collection, with Destruction meditating on change and responsibility with a depth and sharpness that escapes Morpheus, who is blinded from conscious self-understanding by his stubbornness; even as he changes, he cannot perceive that he is changing, and refuses seriously to consider the possibility. The ending of this issue encapsulates these ideas exactly, as Destruction leaves with his belongings in a bag over his shoulder, saying only that he is going "Oh, out there somewhere. Up. Out.", while Morpheus, bound always by his obligations, tells his sister "I need to return to the temple. I have to kill my son."

The title of the collection is the most significant of all the collections, for much of it is indeed concerned with mortality; in another of the most significant lines of the series, Death tells Bernie Capax, a man who has lived for fifteen thousand years, "you lived what anybody gets, Bernie. You got a lifetime."