Sleeping with Suspense

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There are not a lot of books that manage to be both accessible and unpredictable.  You see, for a comic to be accessible, it needs to have some sort of closure and traditional structure.  But, to be unpredictable, you need to know that anybody could go at any time. 

We’ve had a bit of a glory day for television of this kind, with The Shield, The Sopranos, Deadwood, and more, but it’s been a long time since a comic’s done anything like that.  In an age of decompression and writing for the trade, there’s only a handful of books that defy all preconceived notions of what modern comic literature can be. 

Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips’ Sleeper is one of them.  Consistently raw, emotional, and action-packed, Sleeper - now in its second “season” - is a surprise every time you pick it up.  It’s filled with the sorts of twists and turns that you’d never expect from a comic, yet alone one so close to the mainstream.  Sure, it’s not Spider-Man, but it’s published (ultimately, anyhow) by Superman and Batman’s daddies.

To single out a moment from the series that captures its true brilliance is tough, because, frankly, every issue is full of them.  Every scene is so deeply layered with what has come before that, while you can read any one issue, it takes the full commitment to get the true emotional depth.  Brubaker has crafted a tale that is so engrossing that the end of any issue leaves you salivating for more.  Sean Phillips, turning in by far the best work of his career, has managed to take a bunch of characters you don’t know and make them iconic and profoundly recognizable, perhaps redefining the look of the entire crime genre in one fall swoop.

The page included highlights one of the best parts of the series: the cliffhanger ending. While not involving (the usual) guns pressed to temples, the cliffhangers come from a strong character driven point of view. As a result, what would seem like inaction in fact becomes the start of big things to come.

If for some reason you’re living under a rock and haven’t tried Sleeper yet, now is as good a time as any to start.

- Josh Fialkov

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