Adapted By: Rio Youers
Art By: Alison Sampson
Colors By: Triona Tree Farrell
Design/Letters By: Elizabeth Brei
What They Say:
Based on the novel by Stephen King and Don King and adapted by Rio Youers (The Forgotten Girl) and Alison Sampson (Hit Girl, Winnebago Graveyard)! With A covers by Annie Wu (Black Canary, Hawkeye)!
A strange sleeping sickness, known as Aurora, has taken over the world, and strangest of all, it only affects women. In the small town of Dooling, a mysterious woman has walked out of the woods; she calls herself Eve and leaves a trail of carnage behind her. More mysterious: she’s the only woman not falling asleep.
Content (please note that portions of review may contain spoilers):
A woman casually strolls out of the forest, carefree and naked, but her appearance is not troublesome to the traveler, as she spots a nearby ramshackle shelter secluded within a wooded opening and begins exploring. The abhorrent chaos found within is troublesome with numerous pieces of chemistry glasswork on display upon portable burners, but she pays it no mind until after making herself decent, and only then indifferently pulling off surgical tubing connecting propane tanks to the heat sources, with her sabotage only done after fully opening the respective valves to their containers. After her mischief is done, the clothed female wanders downhill to a neighboring mobile home, not caring for the disheveled appearance surrounding it, with her purpose served after knocking on the plain door. The trio inside are too preoccupied insulting each other to care who is on the other side, and while everyone was overcome by their own selective stupors, one finally broke the verbal stalemate and decided to answer this inopportune intrusion.
An all too bright morning and an overly cheery neighbor greets Dr. Norcross as he prepares for a new day, and after washing the sleep from his eyes, heads downstairs to greet his son Jared and read the depressing news within the paper. After relating to his offspring of a mysterious sleeping sickness overcoming Australia, the dutiful teenager pours a much welcomed cup of coffee for his mother who is arriving after an exhausting overnight shift as sheriff, who then off handedly jokes this won’t be enough to keep her awake, suggesting she may sleep until Christmas. However as she finally attempts to succumb to growing fatigue, the unpleasant sound of a ringtone alerts the officer to the responsibilities of her title, with annoyance clearly heard in her voice as she answers the call. The subordinate informs his boss of an explosion on Ball’s Hill Road, and while several units may be on the way to the location, duty overrules the much wanted bliss of dreams, with another tiresome day blending into what continues to become an overwhelming chain of curious events.
Although I was initially interested in reading an adaptation of Sleeping Beauties by Stephen and Don King, and enjoyed the various small screen and movie translations of prior works, this version by Rio Youers leaves a bit to be desired. While I may have not read the original source material, this opening sequence is plodding in its deliberate progression and yet has an appeal as to immediately envelope the reader within the foundation of a naked person and the sleeping sickness known as Aurora, even with a lack of knowledge to motivations for said antagonist, plus no clear understanding as to why both seem to be essential to the story. However due to the unusual unfolding of events, readers cannot but become enticed to plunge deeper into this surprising tale due to these conspicuous developments, especially the unexpected nature of how innocently sadistic our mysterious woman is revealed to be. And yet, it does not help when spoilers are supplied by IDW Publishing within the issue synopsis, furnishing the name of this mysterious foe and undercutting the lack of any rudimentary plot understanding by stating the illness only effects women, all while neither of these facts have not been established within the issue narrative itself. And yet even with all of these undercutting revelations, the story still has enough necessary appeal to keep the audience mildly interested in what happens next, with more unforeseen surprises hopefully around the corner and not hampered by an overly enthused publisher.
With the opening panels revealing of our unexpected antagonist, the reader immediately understands this title will not be the standard visual treat within a horror based comic, and this thanks in no small part due to Alison Sampson’s manner of depicting the surface details of characters in meticulous detail and Triona Tree Farrell wondrously painting this vast canvas within an array of subtle colors which entice the audience to delve within the complexity of this sleep-deprived world. One is not be dissuaded by the innocent bearing of our mysterious woman, with her pale skin strikingly framed by raven hair, and yet as she begins to explore the derelict camp with its controlled chaos, it is this indiscriminate exploration which begins to reflect the sunken nature of her eyes, indicating something sinister underlying as she exposes more of her maniac behavior. The reader cannot but think there is a darkness forming around the female characters of this title, not only due to the dark circles which are seen under the sheriff’s eyes, but then fully understood as we are witness to the sadistic pleasure which this manipulative guest reveals in a shocking visual manifestation of her sickness. The chilling smile she shows to her victims is unnerving, with the monotony of Sampson’s prior pages striking a quiet chord of simplicity that makes the resulting slaughter all the more haunting as she unleashes unrestrained terror. And yet it is Farrell’s pronounced usage of basic colors which amplifies the horror of this scene, allowing primal violence to erupt upon the panel due to vivid splashes of crimson, made all the more grotesquely stunning due to the fascinating usage of bright yellow backgrounds, indicating this may not be the last we see of these violent exploits. However even within all of these captivating pages, the graphic display which one finds bothersome are the curious etchings which we witness upon the heads of sleeping women, almost appearing to be scratches upon some unseen window. These out of place visuals are initially annoying since we have no idea if they are part of the story, seemingly placed as a graphic anomaly to break the pacing of the narrative, and it is not until later to finally understand their placing is essential to the telling of this disturbing tale.
Sleeping Beauties has a bumpy start for what appears to be a promising tale, with this premier issue balancing a captivating story against stunning artwork which motivates the reader to delve into the mysteries hidden within the sleeping community of Dooling. And yet while some missteps are expected from the onset, what makes this title unexpectedly difficult to read is the unwise choice of reversing colors of the word bubbles, utilizing white text upon a black background. Although this make help to project the darkness of their speech, it makes reading these snippets of language all the more frustrating, especially if one cannot discern what is being stated without magnification of the text, which might be difficult if they are blurred and when these book are put to print. Hopefully this choice will be remedied in the near future, but if not, then this series may be at a loss to communicate its intentions, which is a shame for an otherwise hopeful title.
Age Rating: M (for Mature)
Released By: IDW Publishing
Release Date: June 24, 2020