IDW is publishing one of the latest Stephen King novels into comic book format — Sleeping Beauties, his collaboration with his son, Owen King. It’s a new horror mini-series adapted by Rio Youers with art by Alison Sampson about a mysterious woman in Appalachia, a virus from Australia that covers women’s heads with a cocoon and makes them fall asleep. Given the pandemic we’re still living in, this story might be a lot for some, but for others looking for a domestic drama with supernatural horror, this is going to be your cup of tea.
I never read the novel by Owen and Stephen King, but had no trouble getting into this viscerally weird and strange world. The art by Alison Sampson is as good as if not better than on her series Winnebago Graveyard. I interviewed her three years ago and I have to say her art style is arresting no matter the subject. The book opens on a closeup of a mysterious naked woman walking in the forest. She seems to be at peace even with a strange red snake slithering around her. Sampson has a way of layering background and foreground that makes the imagery blend as one, which suits this character who seems to be some kind of force of mother nature.
Soon we’re cutting to a woman’s prison, a family getting ready for the day, and a conflict that sets in motion a day protagonist Lila will never forget. The backwater nature of the surroundings mixed with the incredible perspectives on the characters will draw you in and absorb your imagination. Again, Sampson has completely blown me away with her use of closeups and facial expressions making these very human people seem bizarre and strange. Something very weird is going on and it’s up to you, the reader, to figure it out.
Aside from the incredible visual style, this issue does well to set up the stakes and what is going on. We don’t get a ton of time with the characters, but the ones that matter add up to be very human and realistic. The nature of the virus, really any virus story at all these days, is unnerving and strange, like something out of Twin Peaks. The story does move rather slowly though, again I didn’t really know these characters by the end, but I can see how when collected it’ll read better.
My only gripe is the lettering. It’s hard to read throughout and that may be rectified in the print format (I only had a digital reviewer copy) but I found myself zooming in on the word balloons often to make out what was being said.
I had a blast reading and absorbing the intense and trippy visual style of this book. Sampson is crafting a visual tapestry I can’t put down while Youers is unveiling a bag of mysteries I’m ever more curious about as I turn each page. This is another good example of how comics are a fantastic medium for novel adaptations and may even surpass films if given the chance.