First off, I realize that this review is several years late. Don't blame me. Blame the ass-backward, gilded armpit of Texas that I currently reside in. The only comic shop in town likely to even have carried it was clear across town and I was a young man too busy clumsily flirting with the demon drink to spend money on such superfluous commodities such as gas.
Luckily, several years and a sober(er) state of mind later, I've finally gotten around to finding and reading the much vaunted, little known Avatar Press gem detailing the apocalyptic tomfoolery of mankind's favorite Future Science Jesus. Or for the less well-informed, Warren Ellis's Doktor Sleepless. Fair warning, I am a devoted fan of the Great Warren, even as far back as his run on Excalibur. However, as much as I can, I'll present you with my opinions on issue # 1 with as little bias as humanly possible (may the Great Warren and his almighty bowel disruptor forgive me).
Doktor Sleepless, in general,is a giant sized helping of WTF. Don't get me wrong, I'm nowhere remotely close to judging an emerging series on the basis of its first issue. Ellis has a penchant for beginning a story obliquely to a fault. It does serve its purpose, such as Spider Jerusalem coming down from the mountains into an entire world we couldn't hope to identify with (ah, viewpoint characters). Dropping the reader into the Doktor's home, Heavenside, without so much as a map works in a two major ways. Our titular end-times enthusiast beings the issue contemplating his impending return; he's back but no one knows it yet. And when he left, he was plain old John Reinhardt--boy genius. Coming back home, John decides to fashion himself after the mad-scientist caricature most would play off as too laughable to be a possible threat....Doktor Sleepless. So, we as the reader instantly get shoved into the shoes (and what unnervingly comfy shoes they are) of the main character. This world is his world,but not really. The drop-and-ditch approach serves as a bridge between the reader and the main thrust of the issue. The good Doktor's society is steeped in new fangled science-fictional realities such as the body-modding Grinders, the enigmatic H-tiles, and the alarmingly invasive evolution of social media. But the masses still squabble over the skull-duggery of everyday life; it's as if these average citizens don't even realize that they're the foot-soldiers of the cutting edge and the denizens of a world made weirder for the common good (or a healthy profit at least). And that's exactly the point. Doktor Sleepless ponders just when the future we were promised will arrive and if we'll even be culturally de-thawed enough to recognize it. More succinctly put: "Where's my fucking jetpack?"
Maybe it's my undying love of Warren's Vertigo work, but while the art (beautifully rendered by Ivan Rodriguez) holds its own, I can't help but feel I'm getting a watered down Transmetropolitan. Don't get me wrong, Darrick Robertson and Ivan Rodriguez are not the same artist. Still, that fact doesn't help shake the oddly familiar panel layouts or out-of-control fashions of this future-modern-age. Again, I'm not complaining about the quality of the pencils themselves; I'm merely poking holes in the style of the book. To say it was ripped wholesale from Spider's world is an egregious underestimation of Rodriguez's work. However, to claim that Rodriguez may have taken one too many notes from Professor Transmet's Dystopia 101? Not so off base. For all I could say badly about the visual feel of Doktor Sleepless, the actual panel to panel artwork really is top-notch. Rodriguez's pencils land perfectly somewhere between contemporary sci-fi comics and silver age pulp. Judged solely on its own merits, it fits the book with a kind of unsung grace in issue #1. But, just between you,me, and the Internet, Rodriguez's art really comes to life the further along in the series we get, while the world he draws gets gradually more unhinged.
So we've covered writing and art and a bit of plot. But as this is a retrospective review, I think the most pertinent question to potential Sleepless readers from the past and present is...should you buy this? The Great Warren commands me to say yes (for his nano-infected Mind Control flavored pudding deems it so). But a sense of obligation to the crowd with ever thinning wallets lends me the strength to say...maybe. Ellis has a remarkable collection of first issues of a series or first issues of a run, and very few (if any) of them provide fans of comics a reason to distrust the guy. However, I wasn't entirely sold on the the Dok after one issue. Granted, if you stick with the book, you'll be pleasantly rewarded with the gradual derailing of the world at the hands of a self-proclaimed mad man. It just depends what kind of time and scratch you're able and willing to devote to the book. Let me put it this way: if you're a long-time fan of Peter Parker and his spandex'd super identity currently crafting ways to bring down Dan Slott, this book isn't for you. BUT if you are an avid sci-fi junkie who's shivering and scratching and seizing daydreaming of your next hit? Pick this up, post-haste. It's an impressive run and it grows on you with cancerous tenacity, but even given my love for Warren Ellis, it's definitely an acquired taste.