I’m going to give one of those backhanded compliments. Sleepless, a new fantasy comic by Sarah Vaughn (Alex + Ada) and Leila del Duca (Shutter), was interesting enough to overcome my antipathy towards the genre. I know there’s nothing wrong with fantasy stories — and goodness knows I understand why they might be attractive in today’s culture — but I just don’t care much for knights and quests and wizards.
Sleepless puts a fresh spin on at least the first one. Poppy (formally Pyppenia) is a princess whose father has passed. She attends the crowning of the new monarch, his brother, guarded by Cyrenic, a sleepless knight.
I really want to know what being sleepless means, and how a knight becomes that, especially since the fatigue is drawn on his face and he apparently rests in a crypt. The combination of that level of potential mysticism with the politics of changing leadership makes this story, never mind the fantasy trappings, fresh and modern. That’s helped by Poppy’s dark skin and her awareness of the precarious situation she’s in, as seen in these preview pages.
She’s the kind of modern princess we need, not a fluffy showpiece but someone with knowledge of difficult alliances and how her every move will be seen and interpreted. Plus, the concept of not getting enough (or any) sleep is very much of today.
There’s plenty set up in this issue to explore in future installments: Who’s trying to kill her? What brought Cyrenic to the knighthood, and what did he give up for it? Why does Poppy have nightmares? Why does everyone talk about “time” in vows and magic? They’re billing this as a romance comic, as well, although we only see hints of that here. I’m eager to see where the story goes next and find out more about these two and their world.
(The publisher provided a digital review copy.)