Tuesday, October 30, 2007

PROPAGANDA Reviews: Doktor Sleepless: Zzzzzzzzz

Doktor Sleepless
By Warren Ellis & Ivan Rodriguez
The worst thing about Doktor Sleepless is that I was really looking forward to this, thinking it might just be the new Transmetropolitan, which was the book where Warren’s stylings and voice perfectly synched with a killer story. But this just reads like someone ghosting Ellis after reading a few of his books, taking all the obvious aspects of his writing and ignoring the smaller, quieter touches that elevate his work above sci-fi hackery into something thoroughly enjoyable and exciting. It’s listening to a favourite song destroyed by a really awful covers band or admitting that your favourite band’s latest album is, after all, crap.
Either that or this is half an idea from Ellis’ over-fertile imagination that was rushed into print and is knocked off, one issue at a time, in between projects he cares more about. If you’ve ever read a Warren Ellis book you’ll immediately recognise the nasty edge, the sarcastic tone and the technological one-liners. For example, Page 1:
Today I stop being real. No-one’s going to listen to a boy genius. No-one’s going to listen to a philosopher or a traveller.”
People like listening to characters. Characters are safe, because they’re not real. So today I become a character.”
“…Doktor Sleepless. He’s something else entirely. Who’s afraid of a cartoon mad scientist?
So Doktor Sleepless careers around the city hitting people and spouting slogans. Inconsequential stuff happens, there’s a plot twist over the true identity of Doktor Sleepless and not a lot else.

(panels from Doktor Sleepless by Warren Ellis, with art by Ivan Rodriguez, published Avatar)
So let’s just pretend this didn’t happen shall we?
If you’re after a sleep deprived anti-hero with a mysterious past living in a world that promised utopia but delivered a dirtier version of now, you would do far better reading Dean Motter’s sublime 1980s comic Mr X. This was recently re-released as two volumes featuring art by Paul Rivoche, the Hernandez Brothers and Seth. It’s everything Doktor Sleepless isn’t. Good being just the start of a long list.
And the saddest thing about all this; I love Warren Ellis’ work normally. Planetary, Transmetropolitan, The Authority, Ministry of Space are huge favourites. So the disappointment that is an issue of Doktor Sleepless just hits much harder than reading some other crap comic from a writer I don’t care about. I’ll be over here in the corner pretending Doktor Sleepless isn’t real and re-reading Planetary for comfort and reassurance.
Originally published here at PROPAGANDA on the FPI weblog.


  1. Anonymous1:10 PM

    You are so completely wrong. Doktor Sleepless is one of the best yarns to ever come to the comic medium. Warren Ellis at his best. He is taking his time developing an intricately orchestrated story, which is filled with glimpses of a future that's just around the corner. In doing this he heightens our awareness for the present, while spinning a seductively sexy tale. So wrong. Potential readers don't be confused by this off-the-mark criticism. Pick up the series and see for yourself.

  2. Or alternatively pick up Transmetropolitan and see him doing all this the first time around, but with a fire, passion and interest that puts this to shame.

    I can only think that anonymous hasn't read TMP, because it's just so obvious that Doktor Sleepless is Warren sleepwalking his way through TMP all over again.

    Still each to their own. I understand there are people out there who claim McFly are a modern day Undertones as well.

  3. Anonymous8:45 AM

    The whole tulpa and ayahuasca bits were kind of cool. Doktor Sleepless has potential..but Warren putting some shitty ass poem in issue 3 kind of killed it, like a boner exposed to roadkill.