Saturday, March 9, 2013

Destiny: A Chronicle of Deaths Foretold Trade Paperback Review

Destiny: A Chronicle of Deaths Foretold
DC Comics - Vertigo
160 pages
$14.95 (2000) Trade Paperback
ISBN 9781563895050

Contributors: Alisa Kwitney, Kent Williams, Michael Zulli, Scott Hampton, Rebecca Guay, Sherilyn Van Valkenburgh, and Todd Klein

Reprints: Destiny: A Chronicle of Deaths Foretold #1-3 (of 3)

Synopsis: In a desolate near-future where a terrible antibiotic-resistant strain of the bubonic plague has decimated the population comes a stranger riding on a motorcycle.  He arrives at a farm owned by a woman named Ruth.  She has a beautiful white horse and her family all died of the plague.  His name is John Ryder and he is a bewitching fellow.  Ruth is intrigued and lets him stay at her farm.  He captivates the frightened community of survivors living near her farm by telling them he has a page from the Book of Destiny.  He then tells them three bizarre tales of when the plague appeared before:
An image of Destiny by Kent Williams

  1. In Rome a dancing girl wins the heart of the king and becomes queen.  Many women are jealous and she receives contempt at court.  She helps her king to keep his throne and he is loyal to her.  Then a surprise happens - she has a son who was born long ago while she was a harlot and given up.  He returns to meet his mother, but she locks him away so no one will ever know her secret.  Meanwhile a plague is begins to rage.
  2. In the Middle Ages a king takes his court to a remote castle for a sporting tournament.  He brings his daughters and arranges for their weddings to men they do not love.  One man is old and lecherous while the other is a cruel foreigner.  The youngest princess, Joanne, is temperamental and becomes interested in a handsome young knight.  Too bad the plague is waiting around the corner.
  3.  In the mid-1600s at a sleepy village harvest festival a beautiful young woman rails against her strict religious upbringing.  All the young and old men alike are attracted by her beauty, but she only wants to escape the town.  A stranger catches her attention and her heart, but the plague threatens once again.
What is John Ryder's secret and why does Ruth believe his stories?  The plague has decimated the civilized world once again and Destiny has watched each time.  The fate of all are written in his book.

Pros: Some intriguing art by Kent Williams, story by Kwitney is fairly competent for each time period, art is unique to each story, cameo by Constantine, nominated for an Eisner Award in 1998 for "Best Limited Series"

Cons: Superficially related to Neil Gaiman's The Sandman yet not nearly as good, art and story can be a bit rough in spots, four artists with very different styles
Ruth is tempted by a page from Destiny's book

Mike Tells It Straight: Destiny of the Endless from Neil Gaiman's The Sandman series gets a mini-series all his own.  Obviously an attempt to capitalize on the still-surging popularity of Gaiman's series after it ended in 1996.  Destiny appears, but never really plays an active role.  He is forever the watcher and keeper of knowledge.  It seems a bit daunting to write a character like him and still come up with an interesting story.

Kwitney was an editor at Vertigo during Gaiman's time and familiar with the workings of the world he created.  She is a logical choice then to write a one-off mini-series starring one of the Endless.  Joined by four talented artists who deliver very different styles for each era the story was well presented.  Although the story and art were competent I found the total package to be a mere shadow of Gaiman's The Sandman.

It had less subtle power and elegance, but was still interesting.  For those looking to return to the experience of The Sandman this book will take you about halfway there.  Kwitney does a good job and has great help from her artists, but it's nearly impossible to match Gaiman's work.  Destiny is still much-read material for fans of The Sandman and does what it can with a rather wooden character.  

TO BUY and Recommendations: