Story by Sarah Vaughn
Art by Leila Del Duca
Published by Image Comics
Looks can be deceiving
When it comes to fiction, I have always had a soft spot for a modern retelling of classic fairytales. In the interest of giving this comic book a fair review, my choice for this week’s edition of Comicphiles was chosen as its beautiful cover art evokes comparison to Sleeping Beauty.
As a reminder not to judge a book literally by its cover, however, Sleepless by Sarah Vaughn isn’t a retelling of a classic story. Sleepless is an original story and one that seeks to build the reader’s intrigue right from the get go.
Setting a brooding scene
The best way to appraise any story is to start at the beginning. Issue one opens with a brooding scene of a dark haired hair man who wouldn’t look out of place in an Edgar Allen Poe book, as he’s standing in a tomb surrounded by skulls. He is later revealed to be Sir Cyrenic,
The first two pages pass by without Cyrenic uttering a single word. While this might be seen as an unorthodox way to introduce one of the two main characters, it shows that this particular fairytale is aiming to be more Brother’s Grimm than Disney in terms of overall tone.
On page five we are introduced to Lady Pyppenia, or Poppy, the second of our main characters. She is introduced to the reader laying on top of stone sarcophagus talking to her deceased father in keeping with the rest of the sombre imagery thus far. Cyrenic arrives and informs Poppy that they must go coronation.
Cyrenic and Poppy then leave the tomb and head towards the coronation. On their way out of the tomb they pass through another tomb with the ominous message “Here the Sleepless Lie Never To Wake Again” above the door. This tomb leads us to believe that there is more then meets the eye with Sir Cyrenic.
In just ten pages, Sarah Vaughn‘s Sleepless has piqued my interest and ensured that I will almost certainly be picking up issue two.
The tale unfolds
With the scene set so beautifully with a macabre beauty, Vaughn then brings us lovingly by the hand through a story that is far from your average fairytale. Sleepless, without going into any potential spoilers, unfolds as a story about political intrigue.
Poppy is the daughter of the former king and she must now adjust to life in the court of a kingdom ruled by her uncle, Surno. Against this backdrop of royal strife, Poppy isn’t your average damsel in distress and feels very much aware of the predicament her father’s death has left her in.
Cyrenic is revealed to be Poppy’s bodyguard. But due to his quiet and stoic nature we learn precious little else about him, further adding to the story’s intrigue.
Mercifully, Vaughn spares the reader any clichéd romantic undertones in the relationship between the two main characters. While you can tell that they do care for one another, nothing about their interactions seem unnecessary or forced.
Feast your eyes
Aside from Vaughn‘s well crafted narrative, Leila Del Duca deserves credit as her artwork helps bring this story to life. While I would definitely class Sleepless as having the Image Comics cartoon aesthetic, it does not mean Del Duca‘s personal artistic style does not shine through.
The Gothic feel of the tomb at the beginning, the panoramic view of the castle where the coronation takes place, Poppy’s dress and the small details of each guest at the ceremony are all nothing short of beautiful.
The greatest strength in Del Duca’s artwork has to be the facial features of each character. As I mentioned above, while the characters possess that Image Comic cartoon aesthetic, the facial features of the characters – in particular Poppy herself – are almost lifelike. Leila Del Duca is a talented artist who deserves high praise.
A solid start
Sleepless #1 is a solid jumping off point which will hopefully blossom into a long series. It is obvious from the high quality storytelling and beautiful artwork that everyone involved with this comic book is doing so with a love for their craft.
Sleepless #1 is not to be missed!