Are you looking forward to a new comic book but it’s impossible for you to wait for its release before you know what we thought about it? That’s why there’s DoomRocket’s Advanced Reviews—now we assess books you can’t even buy yet. This week: ‘Sleeping Beauties’ #1, out this June from IDW Publishing.

THIS ADVANCE REVIEW OF ‘SLEEPING BEAUTIES’ #1 IS SPOILER-FREE.

by Jarrod Jones. Comic book adaptations of novels, now there’s one hell of a thing. Were we not already reading? A book, transmogrified into visual shorthand, sent forth into the populace with the hope that what was originally conveyed in its original format somehow finds a deeper, or at the very least more resonant, meaning in the conversion.

Sometimes it’s the undertaking of the adaptation itself that is noteworthy, moreso than the adaptation itself. In this respect IDW Publishing’s Sleeping Beauties is noteworthy, both in its creative team and the manner in which they chose to adapt this, the latest in a long (re: long) string of Stephen King adaptations, both inside the comics format and out. (This time, add Owen King to the mix; he co-wrote the novel.) Marvel spent countless dollars bringing The Dark Tower to the sequential format—surely there’s space on the shelf for this?

Well… sure? For the uninitiated, Sleeping Beauties is a sprawling pandemic saga, so your mileage may vary. (This sucker had been in production well before things truly went south in our very real real worlds, so be gentle.) However, as adapted by Rio Youers (The Forgotten Girl), Alison Sampson (the terrific Winnebago Graveyard), Tríona Farrell and Christa Miesner, Sleeping Beauties #1 arrives as a ravishing, albeit unnerving, comic book debut—an entry port to an appropriately diverting piece of entertainment that doesn’t bother to pardon you from the maladies of today. Think Soderbergh’s Contagion, only more hallucinogenic.

And by “hallucinogenic”, I mean downright lysergic. Frantic panelwork, as applied by Sampson and at times given surreal blasts of color by Farrell, gives each page the veneer of cracked glass from a well-loved kaleidoscope. It’s a fit approach, considering the fractured narrative at play. Because this is an exceptionally character-laden King(s) yarn, Youers splices chapters from the original tome to streamline the issue, and since issue length mandates that we pivot between characters and sequences with an alarming frequency Sampson goes to work on the pacing of the issue by letting the reader get swept up by it. The ruptured presentation of this debut makes reading Sleeping Beauties #1 a disorienting sensation, and that feels deliberate.

For those expecting a huge commitment with this issue, now’s not the time for worry; Youers arranges the primaries of this saga with a reassuring amount of clarity. It breaks down like so: A strange sleeping affliction is sweeping the world, wrapping the afflicted (only women!) in a cocoon—and if anyone should attempt to disturb the sleeping… well… (I did mention this is a King adaptation?) Dubbed as “The Aurora virus” (a moniker clearly meant to be patronizing), the ensuing pandemic will force the characters at the heart of Sleeping Beauties to reckon with the pertinent social implications of this virus. (It’s gender, this story is about gender.)

Straightforward as far as epic plague tales go. More intriguingly, there’s a character named Eve who seems committed to burn and break everything in her path and she traipses across Sampson’s pages with euphoria blasted across her face as she does it. (Eve also seems to have a curious relationship with recently-departed animals.) Who she is and why she doesn’t seem troubled by Aurora means we’ll be following her (and her swarms of blue moths, a recurring motif throughout the issue) for the duration. But to what end?

Reviews of the novel on which this comic series is based seem torn on how successful it was in its presentation of a world where men are forced to run the show without a female hand. This affords Youers & Sampson’s Sleeping Beauties an opportunity to press the book’s complicated approach to sex, sexuality, gender norms, and patriarchal structures in a way that might add something vital to the lore. Considering the detail that Sampson and Farrell put into the visuals—the colors, especially, serve a vital narrative purpose—the characters featured in Sleeping Beauties will have little issue getting their own perspectives across to the reader. Will this adaptation maintain this path, broadening minds while simultaneously breaking them? That remains to be seen.

I am forbidden from revealing any spoilers here (strange, considering the book itself has been out for nearly three years), though I must point out that IDW Publishing’s Sleeping Beauties #1 doesn’t have much to spoil; this debut issue is primarily a big set-up, a lining of this melodrama’s players before the deeper intrigues have even begun to take shape. It’s refreshingly light on exposition and it certainly isn’t short on shocks—a proper comic book debut, it should be said, regardless of its pedigree.

‘Sleeping Beauties’ #1 hits stores this June.

IDW Publishing / $3.99

Written by Rio Youers.

Illustrated by Alison Sampson.

Colored by Tríona Tree Farrell.

Design and letters by Christa Miesner.

7 out of 10

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