By Ben Snyder
Upon finishing the initial couple of pages in Sleepless #1, I couldn’t help but feel a magical quality about the book and that feeling didn’t let up for the rest of the issue. It’s not that Sleepless intends on revolutionizing the wheel, but more so that it succeeds in all that it sets out to achieve. Sleepless #1 introduces the reader to a story involving politics within the royal class of a far off land, an assassination, and a mysterious bodyguard class to the royalty.
Sara Vaughn makes a really bold decision by starting the issue off with almost three entire pages of utter silence. Even more daring is how Vaughn throws the reader right into the middle of it, with the two main characters Cyrenic and Lady Pyppenia attending the new king, Pyppenias Uncle’s, coronation. Vaughn’s risk pays off despite how cliché the main story because of the engrossing and fascinating world in which it takes place. We don’t need the redundancy of being meticulously detailed another introduction to a story about a princess and her knight. We have heard it for millennia on end.
The world in which Vaughn sets her story in is another thing entirely; it is wholly unique and endlessly entrancing. Upon finishing, I’m curious about everything including Pyppenia’s mother, Pyppenia’s relationship to the rest of her family, the mysterious titular order of the Sleepless, as well as Pyppenia’s personal Sleepless bodyguard/knight Cyrenic. There are so many questions that long to be answered and hopefully Vaughn isn’t afraid to explore them more in depth.
Vaughn also goes to great lengths to establish a couple main themes of Sleep and time throughout this issue. The main bodyguard class, of which Cyrenic is a member, seems destined to a life without slumber. While Pyppenia falls asleep after the assassination attempt when Cyrenic calls her by her familiar name “Poppy”. Which is an obvious allusion to opium, which was given as medicine in olden times to ease pain and bring on sleep. Vaughn makes it apparent that magic does exist in this world, but I am left wondering in what form and what is the cost? Can only the Sleepless use magic? Once again, this comic is littered with questions that beg answers.
Perhaps even greater than the script is the overall artwork by Leila Del Duca. As soon as I picked up the book, I was immediately engrossed. Del Duca’s style incorporates this fairy tale/ dreamlike quality that perfectly fits for a story with a theme of sleep.
The opening scene is almost perfect as we see Cyrenic’s sleepless and tired eyes stare deeply into human skull followed by the image of Pyppenia sleeping then praying on the tomb of her father. Alissah Sallah colors perfectly compliment Del Duca’s dreamy artwork with beautifully muted and blended colors. The overall design of the catacombs that Pyppenia and Cyrenic explore is labyrinthine by design and it only adds to the overall appeal of the world that Vaughn establishes with her writing.
Del Duca’s art also takes on more nightmare-ish qualities as well. When Poppy and Cyrenic are leaving the coronation, the walls of the walkway become heavily shadowed and perilous. Duca attempts to distract the reader by framing some scenes with detailed flowers, but the flowers themselves foreshadow eventual conflict as they almost look like they’re dying. The decision to make the assassin an actual being of shadow was clever and emphasized the shadowy nature of the enemy.
Sleepless #1 is a fascinating introduction to a world that would be eerily unremarkable in lesser hands. The team of Vaughn, Del Duca, and Sallah seem like a perfect match by imbuing this tale with enough character and history to keep the reader entertained for many more issues. Hopefully, the rest of the series can maintain the momentum of its enthralling first issue.