Fantastic Romance Awakens in Image's Sleepless

I think anyone who was around for the early days of Image Comics would be surprised but delighted by the amazing diversity of its line today, which surrounds the few holdovers from its original set of steroids infused super-people with a smorgasbord of fantasy, horror, thrillers, science fiction, and personal stories told by a wide assortment of creators of all kinds.  Here, alongside titles like Rat Queens and Bitch Planet, a relatively quiet book like Sleepless might not stand out, but the rich yet accessible fantasy world that it paints with political intrigue and romance is worth the attention of the casual reader.

When you're the old king's illigetimate
daughter, all eyes are on you at court.
The first issue opens in a crypt, where Lady Pyppenia (Poppy to those who care for her) is saying goodbye to her father, the recently departed king.  Poppy is the dead king's illegitimate daughter, making her place in the new regime tenuous.  By the end of this day, she'll have seen her uncle take the throne, be warned that she should not stay at court because the new king will want to "make his mark" and bring considerable change, and face an attempt on her life by the proverbial assassin in black.  Clearly someone wants her out of the way, whether it's the new king himself, one of his scowling family members, or an outside party.  This court intrigue drives the plot of the first issue and, presumably, the series as a whole.

There is something profound
underlying even the simple act of
holding hands.
Fortunately for Lady Pyppenia, she is protected at all times by a sleepless knight named Cyrenic, a young man who has taken the oath and been ensorcelled to never sleep so that his charge may safely rest.  Cyrenic strikes a quiet, somber figure.  It is clear that he shares a past with Poppy, and in stress she desires that they resurrect their familiarity.  However, he is bound by duty, though greater feelings appear to bubble beneath the surface.  Compared to navigating a potentially hostile political climate and evading assassination attempts, this conflict between their roles and the deeper connection that the first issue hints is considerably more subtle, but colors all of their interactions.

Sword and sorcery, but
presented very quietly. 
This mixture of plot is set within a familiar yet fantastic environment.  All of the trappings of a Renaissance-era royal court are on display, but with an overlay of magic.  Knights in this realm are magicked to never sleep so that they may be on guard at all times.  Poppy gives her uncle a ring her father had enchanted to always provide the sweetest of dreams.  Spells can be used to heal the wounded, at the cost of time from the end of the patient's life.  The fantasy elements here, much like the romance, are subtle, but provide a rich texture to the political intrigue that is set out front.

Sleepless is produced by a team of multi-threat creators.  The book is written by Sarah Vaughn, one half of the team that brought us the sci-fi romance Alex + Ada, and drawn by Leila del Duca, the writer/artist who has written and/or drawn Shutter, Afar, and select issues of The Wicked + The Divine. Sleepless is both colored and edited by Alissa Sallah and lettered by Deron Bennett.  The first issue is in stores right now.

JL Franke is a fan of both hard science fiction and hard fantasy.  He has been collecting comics for over 40 years and has been an on-and-off active member of online fandom for 25.  Those interested can find other writings at his personal blog,  When not geeking out, you may find him at a baseball park or cheering on his favorite college and pro football teams.  In his spare time, he is chief scientist for a research and development laboratory somewhere in the Washington, DC greater metropolitan area.
Fantastic Romance Awakens in Image's Sleepless Fantastic Romance Awakens in Image's Sleepless Reviewed by JL Franke on Tuesday, December 12, 2017 Rating: 5
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