Free Country: A Tale of the Children’s Crusade

Free Country: A Tale of The Children's CrusadeFree Country: A Tale of The Children’s Crusade by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

(Received from Netgalley for review.)

So here’s the deal with this book: back in the 90s, the Vertigo books attempted a sort of crossover that, until now, has never really been collected. At the time, that included annuals for several Vertigo books, and those aren’t collected here. Instead, we get the original Children’s Crusade miniseries, which had been the beginning and end of the crossover, with a new middle chapter to bridge the gap between the two. I’m not sure why the original stories weren’t included. Rights issues, maybe?

Unfortunately, that’s to the detriment of the book. Because the beginning and end (written by Neil Gaiman) are much more engaging than the middle. The story as a whole stars the Dead Boys, possibly the most oddly popular of the secondary (really more like tertiary) supporting characters from Sandman. I’m not a big fan, but they’re quite a bit more fun here than I’d thought they’d be. And Tim Hunter, who I’ve always liked takes charge of the ending, which is quite strong.

The problem is really with the middle. For one, it drags terribly. About halfway through the book I realized I was getting bored with it, and only the injection of Tim Hunter was able to save it for me. And because the Doom Patrol and Swamp Thing sections are entirely gone, it leaves big holes in the narrative. We know that both Dorothy and Tefe entered the Free Country and left quickly, but we don’t actually see any of that happen. It’s all off the page. I honestly feel like this would have been better if the actual, original stories had been included instead.

I’m giving this three stars overall. I feel like the Neil Gaiman sections are 3.5 stars, the new stuff is about 2-2.5 stars, and the art, which feels very Sandman-ish to me, is 3.5 stars. Maybe that averages out to 3 stars. I don’t know, math isn’t my strong suit, but it’s close enough for me.

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