A New World Unfolds in Sleepless #1
Brought to us by writer Sarah Vaughn and artist Leila del Duca, Sleepless is a promising new comic series filled with sleepless nights and knights. This first issue introduces two main characters: Lady “Poppy” Pyppenia and Sir Cyrenic, a sleepless knight and Poppy’s dedicated bodyguard. The two obviously have a friendly history together, but Sleepless #1 reveals very little of this. Instead, we’re simply led into the kingdom of Harbeny to meet a slight cast of characters and get our first taste of court drama.
Sleepless #1 opens with Poppy and Cyrenic inside a crypt, with Poppy lying atop her late father’s grave. Cyrenic pries her out of the crypt to attend her uncle’s coronation as king of the land—though not everyone is too happy about this. No, the new King Surno doesn’t seem like a bad guy (yet), but the threat of a dark agenda looms in the subtle expressions and statements of the characters. And if the crypt wasn’t enough to put you on your toes, the attempt on Poppy’s life certainly will!
Though some exposition takes place in this first issue, Vaughn holds her cards close to her chest. There is little to no explanation of the dynamics of this fantasy world or the magic inside it. Instead, there are subtle clues such as Poppy’s no-nightmares ring, the crypt described as Cyrenic’s “resting place,” and a reference to a spell that would take “time from the end of [Cyrenic’s] life.” We’re expected to put things together, which is an adventure all on its own, but Vaughn gives few pieces to work with.
Despite the lack of explicit explanation and the rather slow pacing, Sleepless #1 does not fail as a first issue. The characters are endearing and magnetic. Poppy is lovely and sweet and Cyrenic is dark and mysterious. What a combination! Even if this series doesn’t turn into a romance, I’m pleased because our two main characters work so well together. Poppy is the yin to Cyrenic’s yang, and I can’t wait to discover their history and future together.
I appreciate Vaughn’s technique with dialogue. She does an excellent job at keeping the dialogue simple, with the occasional creative flourish. There’s some old-timey language and Harbeny-specific phrases like, “May time keep you well,” but they invite you into this fantasy world instead of repel you. Plus, these little language treasures give you some insight into the culture of Harbeny. This is pretty useful considering there’s very little commentary on the world of Sleepless in the dialogue itself.
What initially drew me to Sleepless #1 was the artwork. Leila del Duca does a phenomenal job with the faces and costumes of the characters, though some of the expressions are a little wonky. Yeah, a few of the panels suffer from poor angles, but there’s nothing too serious. Overall, I’m mesmerized by del Duca’s linework, which is somehow smooth and sketchy at the same time. And, most importantly, the character designs are consistent on each and every page. There was never a moment when I questioned who was who. My only real disappointment came with the near-full page dedicated to the castle. After such impressive linework and color in the beginning of the issue, I was expecting something magnificent. Unfortunately, the castle is rather flat and dull. Bummer.
Though some of the linework fails, the color excels. Colorist Alissa Sallah incorporates textures and colors into Sleepless that make the issue feel like a dream. Perhaps that was the point? In a sleepless world, these colors are enough to warm anyone’s heart and make them feel safe. This effect is a little misleading considering the threats posed against Poppy, but I enjoy the contrast. It’s like when you settle down to bed, start having a pleasant dream, but somehow end up in a nightmare. Sallah gets you comfortable, but del Duca’s linework and Vaughn’s writing keep you on your toes.
Yes, I will be reading next month’s issue of Sleepless, and every issue after if all continues down this promising path. I’m already attached to Cyrenic and I have to know his backstory. Poppy is wonderful as well, but I feel like there’s less mystery behind her character. Maybe I’m wrong. Vaughn doesn’t give us too much (if any) history in Sleepless #1, but I expect some surprises are in store for us. But even if Poppy is who she seems to be in this issue, there’s enough in Cyrenic’s character to keep me hooked. Plus, the artwork is too amazing to ignore!
How was your experience with Sleepless #1? Was it a dream or a nightmare? Let us know in the comments! Also, if you’re looking for another new, unique comic to read, check out my review of Sword of Ages #1!
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