More and more I’m finding myself partial to Image Comics a a publisher. There’s a lot to sift through, but to me it feels like I see the most variety out of them. That’s not to say other publishers aren’t unique, just that I feel like Image gives me tons of options, a slew of interesting new titles spanning from fantasy to sci-fi and beyond.
Sleepless caught my eye for its ornate, intrinsic design and sort of vintage tropical-climate culture color palette. The artwork is extremely complex and clean despite scribbled detail or dry brushstrokes; these are used in a very balanced way to indicate texture and perspective, something the untrained eye may not notice, yet the mind feels content from it regardless. The colors remain primarily warm and yellowed, which really brings across the literal climate of the setting, the style of the culture, and in some ways, the warmth of familiarity and adoration between many characters. Maybe I’m reading too far into things, but I wouldn’t put it past the team behind this comic, so my compliments to colorist and editor Alissa Sallah. Truthfully, it’s hard to fully express what captivates me about the artwork of this series, although with the story I can easily pinpoint the hooks.
The kingdom of Harbeny, a coastal medieval providence, has a unique fixture amongst its royal lands- an army of knights known as The Sleepless, nights without rest that guard the castle and its nobles with every waking moment; until th sleep of death or drifting madness consumes them entirely. The focus is Lady “Poppy” Pyppenia, the beloved bastard child of the late King and a foreign mistress, and her Sleepless knight, Cyrenic. What unfolds in Harbeny is a mysterious plot to not only grant power to a new heir to the throne, but murder Poppy for reasons unknown… all touched by a cautious love growing between her and Cyrenic.
So there we have it – a medieval tale of magic, mystery, political intrigue, and budding romance. That’s a good setup with a nice set of layers to touch on, but naturally execution is another story- one that I feel has been very well handled. I think what a lot of stories set in a world of fantasy is that social costoms and status play a role in th function of any believable society and culture. Harbeny and its neighboring territories have just enough detail given to them within the story, all without feeling like constant exposition or relentless breaks for a history lesson. You learn what the world is like through character interactions, reactions, and events. And being a medieval story of magically sleepless knights and royal politics, the story is fairly well grounded in itself and induces a great deal of intimacy. I find it fascinating the way author Sarah Vaughn uses flashbacks; there’s just enough detail in these brief flickers from the past to divulge clear trauma or devotion among characters. Additionally, while I enjoy a nice romance from tim to time, I hate to see it shoe-horned into something and brought about in the worst ways at the worst times. What happens between Cyrenic and Poppy, in my opinion, is well executed given the social divide and individual sense of duty, morality, and values.
Despite loving comics so much I majored them in 4 years of college, I’m pretty intimidated by long-term series. I was like this in my anime days too, which is why I never watched Naruto, Bleach, or One Piece. It wasn’t ever a hipster “ew mainstream” thing, just bewilderment and a hint of laziness. Like movies and occasionally games these days, a great deal of th aforementioned mainstream does consist of serialized, interlocked content. It’s nice to pick out something more self-contained and lovingly rendered in its own comfortably short (in a relative sense) run.
Sleepless volume 1 is available for purchase, volume 2 is available do preorder and will release March 19th.
Freelance cartoonist, illustrator, & writer
School of Visual Arts Alumna