Endings are a Privilege

There’s no sound but the turning of the page.

Flip. Flip. Flip. Flip.

The speed intensifies only to slow. The distinct sound grows quieter. That stubborn page slightly stuck to the back cover is all that remains. The page hardly makes a sound as it turns. None are to follow as the back cover quickly snaps shut, closing a series.

There is sadness and satisfaction when a series ends. No one wants to say good-bye to a series they enjoy. Every month the nerd runs to the comic book store to pick up the latest issue of their favorite series, or if you are like me every few months when the trade paperback comes out. The same happens across all media. Fans eagerly awaited the next Harry Potter book, and movies were once in a golden age of midnight shows. They always want more, so when it ends it feels like something is lost.

Endings are a rarity in comics. While despised they are equally welcomed. These series tend to have one writer, one voice who guides the entire story. There are no retcons, nor gimmicks to increase sales. A good series is given the privilege of ending. The critically acclaimed Fables saw its final issue this summer. Sales were high and the series was popular, but the writer, Bill Willingham, felt it was time to end. He told his story and I applaud a writer who knows when a story is done.

I have been fortunate to enjoy a number of endings. The most recent was The Unwritten by Mike Carey and Peter Gross. The story is not important, only that it ended and unexpectedly. Carey places numerous twists and turns in this final volume and by the time you reach the end you know It had to be like this. You may not be happy with it, but often the best endings create that feeling.

Definitive conclusions are often demanded in finales and there is anger when there isn’t one. The outrage at The Soprano’s finale is one example. The genuis here is it allowed everyone to finish the story how they wanted. The Unwritten ends in a similar fashion. Story points are wrapped up but that sneaky last page does not allow the story to end. Instead it opens the possibility for more that you know are not coming.

Another of Carey’s series, Lucifer, ends in a similar way. The final panel promises a new journey but there is none. It becomes our job to figure out how the story will continue, through fan-fiction or our own private endings. I love a happy ending and always imagine these open-ended stories heading that way. (Note: Vertigo just announced a new Lucifer series at SDCC. Takes place in the same universe, but is a reboot to tie into Fox’s forthcoming television series. The original run remains concluded.)

The danger of open endings is giving readers the power of the writer. Not all stories lead to a happy ending. That’s why I also appreciate the endings of The Sandman, Watchmen, and Death Note. Plot points are wrapped up but leave room for possible sequels, though not required. Death Note is a favorite of mine since there is no happy ending. There is no option to create one in your mind, preserving the writers’ vision.

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