Publisher: Image Comics
Writer: Sarah Vaughn
Artist: Leila Del Duca
Colourist: Alissa Sallah
Letterer: Deron Bennett
Release Date: 6th December 2017
In Sarah Vaughn’s new title, she provides us with a brand new fantasy world to explore; the Kingdom of Harbeny, where time, destiny and dreams may just be the most important commodity of all.
In Sleepless #1, young Pyppenia (Poppy), once Princess of the kingdom has lost her father, her brother and her claim to the throne. As the coronation day comes for her uncle to become King, the feeling within the castle changes and it becomes clear that something sinister is afoot – something which threatens Poppy and her ‘Sleepless’ guardian, Cyrenic.
You may read that spoiler-free blurb and fear this new series may just be fairly generic Young Adult fantasy story. And while the setup for our narrative here may not remove that feeling just yet, the fantastic art, characters and lore will most certainly be enough to keep you invested.
The first issue spends its time introducing our protagonists and their supporting cast, allowing us a look into the past of Poppy, the kingdom and the magic that surrounds it organically through dialogue. In less confident hands, this could come off entirely uninteresting or forced, but Vaughn’s incredible writing makes it feel natural and without a hint of clunky exposition to be had.
It’s through this dialogue and the history that we are able to become so attached to our protagonists so quickly. They feel real and alive, filled with sincerity and with history, strengths, weaknesses and insecurities. You want to see Poppy and Cyrenic succeed and you fear for them about whatever lies ahead.
In the same way, the dialogue provides us with glimpses of the lore and magic this world is built on. The idea of these ‘Sleepless’ characters, the focus of sleep and dreams itself, the large value placed on time in greetings between characters and the relationship this world seems to have with dead has me very intrigued, and I can’t wait to learn more about this world and the characters who inhabit it.
The only problem with an issue like this is that very little time is given to setting up a concrete plot or an overarching threat for the issues to come. We get glimpses and know something is ‘afoot’ but this issue only sets up what’s to come, with the second chapter promising to deliver the real narrative beginning.
My only fear is that people may not give this new series the chance it deserves because of its slower-paced first issue. This series may have perhaps benefited from the double-size treatment for its first issue. The hope also being that it picks up the pace beginning the story next issue.
When it comes to the art however, there is absolutely nothing to complain about. The incredibly detailed and luscious pencils of Leila Del Luca do a truly impressive job of bringing this fairytale-esque story to life. No part is spared as intricate facial work and costume design help these characters to come alive on the page, playing just as significant role in making them feel real as Vaughn’s impressive dialogue.
Alissa Sallah’s colours follow suit as the perfect extension of these fairytale pencils, blending the vibrancy of a fantasy world while also covering the page in an almost ethereal veneer with her deep and effectively muted use of colour. Stunning use of aspects like lighting and shadow also give depth and potency to a story filled with a sinister plot brewing. It’s perfect, and as much as reason to read as any.
In the end, this issue may feel like a prologue more than an actual beginning. And while that may leave a few feeling unconvinced or concerned about picking up this issue, the flawless character work, world-building and artistry by Vaughn, Luca and Sallah make the tale of Poppy and Cyrenic, a story I can’t wait to see blossom into something truly unforgettable.
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The writer of this piece was: Connor Stephens
Connor Tweets from @diddlesMVP