Writer: Sarah Vaughn / Artists: Leila Del Duca & Alissa Sallah / Image Comics
Fans of renaissance-themed fantasy and historical romance, I’ve got a new comic for you. Issue #1 of Sleepless hit the shop yesterday and it is off to a promising start. The set up? First there’s Princess Pyppenia, Poppy to her friends and family, a princess in name, but not in line for the throne.
Oh, I didn’t mention that she’s brown-skinned? BECAUSE SHE IS AND SHE’S LOVELY! Poppy is well-drawn, with big expressive eyes and a dress I would wear to renaissance faire this summer in a heartbeat.
Second, there’s her bodyguard, Cyrenic.
He’s not just a bodyguard, he’s part of a special order of The Sleepless, who literally don’t sleep. I don’t know what that does to his mental health, but whatever. He’s sworn to protect her.
From what? We don’t know yet. We do know that her father has died and her uncle has been installed as the new king. We also know that there will be intrigue, backstabbing, and a little bit of magic, all hinted at in these first 30 pages.
The other major characters are introduced too, Poppy’s mother, her “step mother”, the new king, all hinting that all is not well in the kingdom.
Artistically, Sleepless had me at the cover. That dress?
I appreciate any artist who takes the time to give me an authentically Early Italian Renaissance inspired dress, complete with an appropriate pattern! (Am I geeking out too much? I’m geeking out too much.) But there’s more, and this goes to a huge issue between me and comics. Poppy goes to bed with a headwrap on, because she’s got lots of hair. Head.Wrap. There are very few Black women characters in comics, but in all of those situations, how many times is ol’ girl sleeping with her hair all out? Too many. I don’t need realism in my comics, but COME ON! And not only does Poppy actually treat her hair right, but that headwrap is fit for a princess! These are the kind of details that make me want to hug an artist. These are the kind of details that show me you did your homework and you care about the reader and the character.
My romantic heart wants to give Sleepless a 10 out of 10 because there’s no way in hell I’m not reading the rest of this series. It literally hits all of my nerd boxes. But my critic’s soul says this isn’t a perfect comic. The pace is measured a bit too slowly and some of the panels of action suffer from perspective issues. But the details are right on and as more is revealed, I hope the slow pace will become a building intrigue and tension. This is a first issue with plenty of promise, if you like historical fantasy, romance and intrigue, this is a good #1 to try.