Original Novel by Owen and Stephen King
Adaptation by Rio Youers
Art by Alison Simpson
Review by KrisK
Disclaimer: I love Stephen King books. My wife and I have two bookshelves full of his books. That being said, I have never read Sleeping Beauties. I came to this comic with a blank slate.
Historically, comics based on Stephen King’s works are very much a mixed bag. While some of his novels received massive series, my personal favorite is the four part mini-series for the short story, N. One of the keys to a good adaptation, is art that captures the tone. In the case of Stephen King’s N, Alex Maleev perfectly captured the fear and paranoia of a man driven mad by a dark god. Sleeping Beauties, a massive novel, represents a whole new endeavor.
Sleeping Beauties follows many threads coming together in a small town, a standard feature in King works. The main thread introduces the mysterious and murderous Eve. She wanders out from the woods, burning down a meth lab and killing its “scientists”. The law enforcement officer who arrests her, is also married to the local correctional facility’s shrink. Other town’s people are briefly introduced as well. The overarching subplot, affecting the entire planet, is Aurora. Also known as the variations mentioning Asia and Australia, Aurora causes a deep sleep. It only affects women and creates a web like covering around the head of the victim.
Sleeping Beauties feels very relevant. The obvious parallels between Covid-19 and the “Asian Fainting Sickness” add a new depth to the story. The xenophobia in the nicknames for the viruses only serve as one level. A mysterious global pandemic striking with no known treatment feels all too familiar from the early days of Covid. Instead of feeling like unfortunate timing for the story’s release, the comic’s sense of horror and dread increase exponentially.
Youers sets the tone perfectly for a Stephen King adaptation. All the beats of a King novel, the magical outsider villain, a small town full of its own darkness, and a sudden, unstoppable threat all strike the right rhythm for a nightmare nocturne. Adapting a novel over 700 pages long into a comic book mini-series means expertly editing out all but the bones of the story. Not just in plot, but in tone. Youers knocks it out of the park. While the issue feels confusing at first, the pieces fit by the end.
Simpson certainly knows drawing evil, with comics like Winnebago Graveyard in her resume. The world of Sleeping Beauties carries less of the dirt and grit of Graveyard, but it carries the same sense of dread. Crowded‘s Triona Tree Farrell splashes the pages with vibrant colors seen only in the best horror. The combination of the two artists create a world similar to a Stephen King tale but unique, like an Earth-2 version of his dark world.
Verdict: Buy! While the story might seem daunting at first, with many story threads introducing characters and events, the stories combine nicely at the end. The comic left me eagerly waiting for the next issue.