Neil Gaiman is one of the most talented and imaginative writers of the modern day. And that is the extent of breathless gushing I want to do in this review. Midnight Days is one of those books that could easily have never seen the light of day. It collects 5 of Gaiman's earliest works for Vertigo. Those who expect the fantasy writer at the top of his game, will be disappointed. This is more of a collection to show Gaiman's foundations, how he started out. The introductions he wrote alongside the stories are fascinating, and offer some history onto how he started out in the comic business.
The first story, Jack in the Green, is interesting primarily because it sees a reunion of the original artistic team that worked on Alan Moore's now classic Swamp Thing. This also happens to be only the second story Gaiman had written (the first being a Hellblazer title about what's growing in John Constantine's fridge). I'm not very literate on Swamp Thing, but even then, there's not much in the story. It's pretty, poetic prose. The artwork is very good though. Considering it's only the second story he'd ever written, you can see the specks of talent waiting to shine through.
Brothers is about a rag doll animated by forces similar to the ones behind the Swamp Thing. The story is surreal, bizarre,twisted and any other synonym you can think of. I liked this stora lot. The characters are brilliant. There's the innocently-psychotic rag doll that's exposed to an alien world, the ever optimistic hippie enamoured by flower power and the cynical FBI agent, disillusioned from the summer of love. A brilliant mesh of personalities creates a memorable story.
Shaggy God Stories is kind of like the first story. Again, you really have to be very Swamp Thing literate for this to really appeal to you. Instead of Swamp Thing, this time it's about the Floronic Man (yeah, Gaiman has some weird vegetable obsession). Hold Me, commonly known as Hellblazer 27, is what Gaiman describes as one of the best comics he's ever written. I think I might agree. The exceptional Dave McKean does the art and it's probably the best McKean work I've seen. The story is very touching (darn near gets you all teary). It's sombre, dark, a collage of loneliness and how a forlorn spirit finds some solace. Definitely the high point of the collection.
And this brings me to the last story, Sandman Midnight Theatre. Long before I got my hands on Midnight Days, I heard about a story where Sandman (Morpheus) meets the Golden Age Sandman. So when I did finally get to this story, I was buzzing. This story also happens to be a collaboration between Gaiman and Matt Wagner, the original writer of the Golden Age Man of Mystery, Sandman. Teddy Kristiansen does a wonderful job with the art too. The story, though, focuses mainly on Wesley Dodds, as Morpheus was still locked up in Burgess' glass prison (which you already knew if you've read Preludes and Nocturnes). Does it live up to the hype? Well, I think it did. Check it out and find out for yourself.