November 11th 2009
Point Blank & Sleeper Season One
Review written by Eamonn O'Reilly
Before I go into a more in-depth review of these two books I feel I have to comment on the fact that “Prelude to Sleeper” as a strap-line doesn’t do Point Blank justice at all. It implies that it is nothing more than a setting of the scene, a teaser if you will. This is way off the mark as it is an extremely engrossing story in its own right.
Where it does succeed as a prelude is in how compelled I was to immediately start reading Sleeper to see where Brubaker et al were going next.
There are good things here - interesting characters, peculiar powers and a narrative that brought the novels of James Ellroy to mind (in a good way) on more than one occasion. These are undoubtedly graphic novels for grown-ups.
Okay, first up a confession, I’ve read at most three graphic novels based in the Wildstorm Universe so the setting and style of this world were all pretty new to me.
I was very tempted to do some background reading on the history of this universe but decided against it, these books should really stand or fall on their own merits. If an encyclopaedic knowledge of what’s gone before was required, and there are graphic novels out there that require that, then my review should be and is, from the perspective of someone without. Can these books serve as an entry to this world? This is part of the old, larger question of easy consumption of comics to attract new readers, something the big publishers still often get wrong.
It started badly, I read maybe thirty pages of Point Blank got distracted and then didn’t pick it up for about three weeks. I didn’t have the familiarity or affection for the characters that I might have when reading a marvel or traditional DC based story. (It’s worth mentioning that Wildstorm is now owned by DC but for the purpose of this story at least the two continuities appear to be completely separate.) Any comic outside of the big two will always face this problem though, so how did this fair?
(Pedant note - Some post-reading of the novels research has shown that DC has linked them by making the Wildstorm universe Earth – 50 in their very convenient multiverse convention for linking together stories that don’t make sense on the same world. There is no indication that this story is going the way of having earth crossovers but you never know.)
So three weeks after first starting it I give it another go, and what starts off as a fairly humdrum story quickly became an intricately weaved spy thriller with random superheroiness popping up every once in a while. Perhaps it was the new setting or the lack of any prior knowledge but I had to take a leap of faith to get far enough into this story to start giving a darn but once I did I didn’t look back. For those who’ve read about Cole and co before this probably wouldn’t be an issue. If, like me, you’re new to these guys, give it a while, you may come to appreciate them as much as I have.
Point Blank follows the (mis)adventure of Cole Cash, “Grifter”. What’s worth mentioning here is that I still don’t know what super powers he’s meant to have, this is a novel based in a world with superheroes but it’s so matter of fact and ordinary that often I thought I was reading a standard spy novel before being reminded a few panels later that some guy can fly.
This is a well contained solo story. It stands on its own and ends properly, serving as both an entertaining read and a suitable introduction to a world much bigger than Cole.
Powers are peculiar here; half the fun of Sleeper in particular is discovering what some of the characters can do and how they acquired these powers. I’m not going to ruin it here but trust me when I say that they’re pretty interesting and certainly not abilities you’re likely to have come across before.
Sleeper focuses on Holden Carver. I can’t say too much about who he is or what the plot of this book is without spoiling it. In fact this is all you’re going to get – he’s hard as nails. I’m saying no more as you should read his adventure for yourself if you have any interest in spies or superheroes as this is both. Suffice it to say that it’s a dark, twisted and brilliant piece of noir writing.
This is season one though so don’t expect any closure here, season two is out soon and I for one hope that there are a few more seasons displaying the exceptional quality of the first.
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