Delirium's Party: A Little Endless Storybook
written by Jill Thompson
Unlike Jill Thompson's first exploration into the world of the Little Endless, Delirium's Party is geared more for mature audiences, particularly those who have experienced the first installment and are familiar with the characters. In some ways, Thompson borrows a page from J.K. Rowling here in the structure and content of her sequel because, like her young readers, the story has also grown. While still whimsical, fantastic, introspective, and silly, the tone of the book veers more towards the darker side of children's literature. As such, uninitiated children would probably be perplexed or confused by the story itself. Teens who read or were read The Little Endless as kids, along with adults will enjoy Delirium's Party as a solid follow up in what many hope is an ongoing project for Thompson.
Where The Little Endless follows the misadventures of Barnabas to locate the missing Delirium among each of her six siblings, Delirium's Party finds the lead character discovering that she has never seen her sister Despair ever smile. Immediately, audiences should recognize a key difference in content between the two stories as the once nameless character of Death is fully identified. Although she plays a minor role in the evolving tale, she is nevertheless called upon and described as both "beautiful and calm." Actually, Thompson plays with the Endless' roles through Delirium's interactions and early conversations with them--Destiny who "knew nearly everything" and Desire "who always seem to cut the call short before the Princess could get all the information" stand out the most. In fact, while The Little Endless delights in the simple humor of Barnabas' quest and Delirium's own wildness, Delirium's Party finds comedy in the missteps of the Endless as they attempt to cheer up their sibling.
This comedy is classic in nature and design, anchored in part in a morality play format where the lesson learned by the reader is more important the main character achieving her goal. As before, Thompson's art excels here as the driving force behind the story. Although the pages appear far more digitally rendered than her previous work, the effect seems indicative of the printing and reproduction method themselves rather than a shift in Thompson's own workflow and process. The pages still possess that magical, somewhat slightly innocent and simultaneous psychedelic quality that charmed audiences in the first book in their multicolored environments and bizarre stylings that adorn Delirium throughout the narrative. Yet, it is the interplay between the Endless as they attempt to organize and carry out the surprise party for Despair where the bulk of Thompson's humor occurs.
From the "Princess and the Pea" gag in Delirium's bedroom through the caustic sarcasm of Barnabas, Thompson is at her narrative best. Despite Delirium's surprise party, Dream's continued attempts at explanation, and Delirium's homemade cake, nothing can make Despair smile. A parade of presents, the most sought after gifts in the world, do little to alter Despair's melancholia. Granted a future full of wealth and free of any troubles from Destiny, everlasting good imaginings without any nightmares from Dream, a heart locket promising to make her the sole object of inspiration and longing from Desire, control over a universe all her own from Destruction, and lastly, a peaceful calm eternity from Death, Despair has the same unemotional responses to each gift. How does one bring joy to a being whose sole defining characteristic is Despair? Without giving further spoilers, Thompson delivers a succinct, appropriate, and very fulfilling conclusion to the tale.
Read as either a sequel to the first or a standalone title of its own, Delirium's Party is a wonderful addition to Thompson's already impressive catalog.