Sleeper Volume 1

Written by Ed Brubaker
Illustrated by Sean Philips

This is set in the same universe as the Authority, though I kinda feel like it shouldn't be. There's an off-handed reference to them, and it's just too dismissive of this really powerful supergroup that wants to be the quasi-official ruling body of the world overlooking things that could definitely impact on its ability to do so. At any rate, this is the story of being stuck in deep cover in the world of capes. Our hero is...a sleeper.

This is a very, very dark book. I mean, really dark. So dark, I'm using adverbs all over the place despite my general dislike for them as a rule. It's that dark. No one in this book is remotely innocent, not even the victims. Certainly not our hero, Holden Carver, who absorbs pain and transfers it to his victims. Certainly not the boss who got him into this miss and is now too incapacitated to help. Certainly not, well you get the idea.

Holden takes us through his new life, infiltrating a secret organization and moving up through the ranks to become one of the inner circle, killing those he has to in order to survive. Towards the end, we can see this is killing him inside, and his desire to get out, some how, some way combined with a refusal to let go of his past, should be--and I will be mad if it isn't--the death (or at least near-death) of him at some point.

Brubaker cuts loose here, writing a tale darker than I thought him capable of managing. My only problem is that at times, it seems like he's piling it on. Noir is dark, I get it, but a few references appear to be in there only for how much they can shock the reader. I also have a problem with the fact that the women, ether at Phillip's idea or Brubacker's direction, seem to be naked a lot. I've no problem with nudity, but as with Vertigo, I feel like someone along the way is equating a mature rating with needing to toss about the titties. That's a trend that drives me crazy. In this particular case, showing so much skin took away from what should have been a big moment--Carver being seduced--because I was annoyed at that point by the nudity. This may just be a problem with me, who knows.

(Yes, I am smiling at having written "toss about the titties" I admit.)

If you can handle the rough subject matter, this is definitely worth reading. Brubaker plots a good suspense and Philips does a great job of setting mood when he's not overdoing the women. I look forward to reading more of this one.