Sleeping Beauties Volume 1 [IDW; $19.99] is based on the novel by Stephen King and Owen King. It’s being adapted to the graphic novel form by Rio Youers with artist Alison Sampson, colorist Triona Tree Farrell and letterers Christa Miesner and Valerie Lopez. Because I was intrigued by the premise, I’d been thinking of requesting the novel from my local library system but decided to read the comics adaptation first. Is this the modern-day equivalent of reading the Classic Illustrated version of something for the book report that’s due tomorrow?
The premise: A bizarre sleeping sickness, called Aurora, has fallen over the world. Its victims can't wake up. And all of them are women. As nations fall into chaos, those women still awake take desperate measures to stay that way, and men everywhere begin to give in to their darkest impulses.
This is scary stuff. Aurora victims appear to spin cocoons around their sleeping bodies. In fearful debate, men wonder if the women are actually alive or about to spawn something horrible. When such women are removed from their cocoons, they turn violent. Some men try to protect their loved ones while others are determined to burn the sleepers. And there’s this mysterious woman who walks out of a forest and who can fall asleep without spinning a cocoon and wake up from the slumber normally. If anything can be considered normal in a book by King and his youngest son.
I liked this graphic novel adaptation quite a bit. The question on my mind is...do I wait for the second volume of the graphic novel adaptation or do I switch over to the actual novel? I’m not going to put it to a vote or anything, but feel free to express opinions in the bloggy thing comments.
Friend of the Devil by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips [Image Comics; $24.99] is the second book in their Reckless series. Somehow, I’ve managed to overlook the first book, something I will correct very soon. Overlooking the first book in the ongoing series of hardcover graphic novels didn’t diminish my enjoyment of this one in the slightest. It stands alone quite nicely.
Ethan Reckless is described as one part repo man, one part private eye and one part wrecking ball. His life isn’t perfect, but it’s good enough when he’s drawn into a woman’s search for her missing sibling, a would-be Hollywood actress who disappeared in the 1970s. Several of the more seedy sides of show business drive Reckless’s search, made the more personal because he has become romantically involved with his client.
Brubaker is known for his significant contributions to the Marvel Comics and Cinematic Universes, but, as I well know, creators like him never receive the acclaim and monetary rewards from those key contributions. Brubaker has spoken out about this and cited it as a reason he now chooses to concentrate on projects like Reckless. Of course, he’s also well known for his crime comics and, in that genre, I think he’s the current best we have.
Teamed with the amazing art and storytelling of Phillips, Brubaker delivers an engaging tale. My reader’s satisfaction lingers after I finished the book with scenes and, in particular, the conclusion visiting my thoughts from time to time. Kudos should also go Jacob Phillips, the colorist of this graphic novel.
I recommend Friend of the Devil to older readers who love the genre or who love great comics, regardless of their genre. Now excuse me while I request the earlier Reckless book from my local library.
It took me a while to warm up to DC Comics’ “Black Label” imprint, mostly because my first exposure to it was the crap-tastic Batman: Damned. That one combined two things I disliked: yet another grim
and soul-crushing Batman story and a writer I believe should not be allowed within a solar system of super-hero comics. Later releases of the imprint won me over.
Hellblazer: Rise and Fall by writer Tom Taylor with artist Darrick Robertson and color artist Diego Rodriguez was one of the efforts that won me over. I’ve genuinely liked most of Taylor’s writing. Robertson is one of the very best artists and storytellers - not often the same thing - in comics. While I’m not as conversant with colorists, but I think Rodriguez did a bang-up job on this three-issue series. Here’s a quick synopsis:
A wealthy man plummets from the sky and is gruesomely skewered on a church spire. Bizarrely, angel wings are attached to his back. More deaths follow until, hallelujah, it’s raining businessmen. Detective Aisha Bukhari is stumped by this strange phenomenon, until she’s visited by her childhood friend, occult investigator John Constantine, who discovers a link between the falling elite and a shocking moment in his and Aisha’s misspent youth. How are these killings tied to the first death on John’s hands? How does this involve heaven and hell? Even if this is kind of John’s fault, will Constantine be happy to let a few more rich bastards fall from the sky, like a vindictive Robin Hood?
First off, the version of John Constantine in this story strikes me as being well within the core values of the character. I haven’t a clue if its faithful to whatever Constantine continuity holds sway in the DC Comics Universe these days, but it was a Constantine that I recognized as being the guy who appeared in so many stories I’ve enjoyed in the past. The story did seem to be a different take on John’s “origin” as a dark magician with a number of really awful screw ups in his past, but the essence of an arrogant protagonist whose hubris causes him and others grief is there. Indeed, one of those past mishaps is what drives this story.
The story unfolds nicely. The supporting cast, especially a rather dapper Lucifer, is terrific. The tale’s “big bad” is sufficiently scary enough to give the devil concern. The conclusion to the story is satisfying. It’s a above-average Hellblazer effort, which says a lot given how many great Hellblazer stories have been published. DC got it right this time.
The three issues have been collected in Hellblazer: Rise and Fall [DC; $24.99], a hardcover book released in April of this year. I think it’s suitable for adults and older teens. I recommend it to those readers.
That’s all for today. I’ll be back soon with more stuff.
© 2021 Tony Isabella
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