Vol. 1: Out in the Cold
Vol. 2: All False Moves
Written by Ed Brubaker
Art by Sean Phillips
Back in 2001, a funny thing happened. Noir style comics got popular. Sure, they have been around for a pretty long time but I think it hit its peak once noir-esque style writers like Brian Bendis, Greg Rucka, and Darwyn Cooke started to make some engrossing pieces of comic book fiction. And with the popularity came the glut of noir comics, filled with morally ambiguous heroes and deadly femme fatales. Some were good but a lot were not great. The worst part of it all was that with so many books out there, a great book was bound to be lost in the fold. Sleeper by Ed Brubaker (Daredevil, Criminal) and Sean Phillips (Criminal, Marvel Zombies) was one such title.
Though it garnered a lot of critical acclaim, sales for this title was okay at best but because of solid following plus strong trade sales, the entire series is finally collected in two volumes. This writer could not be happy about the situation, though he does have some small nitpicky grips about the new editions.
Okay, so let’s start with the basics. Sleeper centers on Special Agent Holden Carver. When a mission to grab a mysterious artifact goes south, Carver and his team of government agents are left for dead. Lucky (or unlucky?) for him, Carver is the lone survivor. The artifact bonds with him, saving his life, and leaving him with the power to store and distribute pain to other around him. With the world believing he is dead, Carver decides to help his government the only way he can: become a double agent.
Flash forward to four years later, as Carver has established himself as one of the top men in a super powered criminal organization. Carver’s very close to nabbing the organization’s boss, Tao, but a wrench is thrown into the mix when he discovers his handler on the outside (and the only person who knows who he actually is) is put in a coma by an unknown attacker. To make matters worse Tao suspects a rat in his fold and plans to do all he can to smoke him out.
Like everyone else, I was late getting into Sleeper. I remember picking up the first issue but for one reason or another, never picked up the subsequent issues. It was only until I picked it up at my local library that I got hooked on all its greatness.
For one thing, it is written by uber writer Ed Brubaker. Anyone who has read any of his works knows the man can spin a yarn and he doesn’t disappoint with this. The characters are developed, engaging, and most of all, you really root and feel for the characters, even though a majority of them are immoral homicidal criminals. The best character is the main character Carver, who is the quintessential noir hero. He is basically a guy that is trying to do what is right, despite the cards he was dealt with, and you root for him to come out of this mess alive, even though deep down you know there will be no happy ending.
Yes, dear reader, sorry to burst your bubble but there is no happy ending at the end. It is a noir story after all. No character comes out of this story unscathed as Carver’s criminal and government lives begin to intertwine, and I think it was a wise move on Brubaker’s part to fashion such a story. It is not a pretty story so it shouldn’t get a happy ending.
What is pretty though is the art by Sean Phillips. Many should be familiar with his work on Marvel Zombies but I really love his work on Sleeper. His dark tones and style fits the mood of the story perfectly. I can’t imagine anyone else would be able to fill his artist shoes.
While I have much love for the series as a whole, I really wish the packaging was different for the two volumes. For one thing, I really would have liked the books to be in hardcover. I think Wildstorm should have sprung the extra dollars, seeing as how popular Brubaker and Philips are, with their creator-owned project Criminal doing well.
Kudos for Wildstorm though for repackaging the series into two volumes instead of the previous four but I would have liked to see some more extras in the book, like some character designs or maybe even a new introduction from the two creators themselves. These are just the grips of a comic fan though; the lack of these extras will not dampen your love for this book.
Sleeper is a hit on all counts. The writing is solid and the art is perfect for the tone of the story. You will not be disappointed with this read.