Thursday, September 12, 2013

Review: Sleepwalker #20

Sleepwalker #20, "Split Decision," Cover Date January 1993
Written by Bob Budiansky, Pencils by Kelly Krantz, Inks by John Lowe

Sleepwalker 20 Cover

Sleepwalker was one of many new titles introduces during the 90's boom, and was apparently called "Sandman Done Right" in a statement by Tom DeFalco, which is one of the most absurd things a comic book editor ever said (he denies saying it). The basic premise is that human college student Rick Sheridan becomes the host for an alien from the "mindscape" dimension that act as a sort of dream police, but that Sleepwalker is only unleashed when Rick is asleep. I actually think it's kind of a cool twist on the old "alter ego" that Sleepwalker is definitely not Sheridan, and that the two are mostly able to get along is a nice contrast to the whole "Hulk hates Banner" "Hyde hates Jekyll" trope- it's probably closest to Captain Marvel and Rick Jones's relationship in the 70's (but with less LSD). But let's get to this issue, the middle of an ongoing story, taken out of context!

Our story opens in Rick Sheridan's dorm, where narrative text explains that due to the Chain Gang (who all appear to be literally chained together) breaking into his room to murder him, a very much awake Rick voluntarily tried to give Sleepwalker access to his body. The end result was Sleepwalker taking over about 55% of Sheridan's body, with Rick still existing as the other "half." The Chain Gang members opine that he's turned into "some kinda monster!" ignoring that Sleepwalker is basically always an alien monster. The Chain Gang members, forgetting to use their code-names like "Uplink," are undeterred, and attack Sleepwalker/Rick anyway. Sleepy boots away the apparent leader, while Rick notices there's something wrong with his dog Rambo, who is still sound asleep. A gap-toothed member of the gang called "Weak Link" tries to drain Sleepy, but he throws them all through the wall so they are hanging over a three story drop. One of them tells a nerdy looking Chain Gang member to use his teleportation, but he argues that he's not very good at it. Meanwhile, Rick's  new neighbor Janine, who is dressed like... a prostitute, walks down the street outside her building, oblivious to the bizarre battle going on above her.

Sleepwalker 20 Janine
I wasn't exaggerating.

Rick's landlord knocks at the door, and Rick/Sleepy floats down into the crowd of the Chain Gang. The landlords notice Rambo and pick him up. Back on the ground, the Chain Gang starts to disappear, as one of them says it's impossible, because they overpowered the dog's mind, and he couldn't be waking up already. Janine cautiously approaches Sleepy, but seeing his half-man half-sleep alien form, she takes off running with incredibly bad form.

Sleepwalker 20 Janine
Janine does her best Ghost Rider impression while running like a girl.

In another plane of existence, the villainous Cobweb tortures the Chain Gang for their failure as he talks about his plans to murder them. One of the gang says Cobweb is partially to blame for tying them into the mind of a dog, so Cobweb relents and doesn't have them all killed. They get teleported into another fight, as a different Sleepwalker fights... some monster. They choke out this other Sleepwalker, and Cobweb links them to that guy's mind, but promises that he'll kill them if earth's Sleepwalker doesn't die, and soon.

Sleepwalker 20

At a Manhattan nightclub, Whitney Cooper III and Alyssa Conover are talking over drinks (don't ask me who they are, I don't know). Alyssa says "a girl needs to rest," but Whitney says "there are other things a girl needs," and because he's handsome and apparently rich, that line works great. Unfortunately, a red-head appears and kisses Whitney on the cheek, causing Alyssa to storm off. She passes out a moment later, as the Chain Gang re-appears, and Weak Link says "I like leftovers" upon hearing she's Rick's ex. Whitney tries to catch up with Alyssa and finds the Chain Gang carrying off her unconscious body, but he's grabbed and threatened, as the gang wants to find Rick. Didn't they already find him once? Do they just need directions back to Rick's apartment?

Sleepwalker 20 Alyssa asleep
Comics code approved.

Meanwhile, in the greatest scene ever recorded, a man named "8-Ball" who has an... 8-ball for a head hangs out at a bar full of super-villains, including the Beetle and Speed Demon. 8-Ball is trying to get somebody to play a game of 8-ball with him, but not surprisingly, can't get any takers. Speed Demon says how 8-Ball hasn't shut up about the gold bowling trophy(!) he stole before defeating Sleepwalker. 8-Ball says he's just here for a friendly game, when the Hobgoblin suddenly appears! Unfortunately, a narrative caption says we can't just watch them play pool for the rest of the issue.

Sleepwalker 20 Hobgoblin 8-Ball
Is 8-Ball's head in play?

Rick argues with his Sleepwalker half, saying he has class in the morning, when he notices WCIII's car pulling up with the Chain Gang and an unconscious Alyssa in tow. Sleepy attacks the group, and one of the Chain Gang stupidly shouts to keep him away from Alyssa. The Gang seems to have the upper hand, when Sleepy is able to break the chain, shorting out the Gang's powers. As Sleepy revives Alyssa, Rick yawns, as he begins to fall asleep. Sleepy and Rick are magically separated, leaving Sleepy standing around in our dimension. Alyssa asks Sleepwalker what's going on, but he replies that he's not Sleepwalker at all! He's Rick! To be continued!


Sleepwalker 20
Yellow backgrounds everywhere.

Sleepwalker's definitely not a book I'm too familiar with- I was mostly familiar with his powers and background via trading cards. But coming to the series fresh, I have to say this issue shows a fair amount of potential. I like the interaction between Rick and Sleepy, and the ending would definitely get me to pay another 5 quarters to see how Rick's getting out of this one (and to see more 8-Ball). The art is... not as promising. This is the only Marvel book Krantz ever worked on, and I'm curious how much of the weird anatomy is intentional and how much is just "that's the way 90's artists draw." It's a shame, too, because the book has a sort of Silver/early Bronze Age charm, with its goofy fun villains and girlfriend angst. The ending reminds me of the classic Spider-Man story where Peter had four extra arms (Amazing Spider-Man #100-102, 1971). Apparently Budiansky came up with the Sleepwalker concept way back in the 70's, and seemed to make a conscious effort to reference the style of Dr. Strange, Silver Surfer and Warlock comics of the time. But Krantz's cheesecake-y drawings of Janine, the ridiculous anatomy of most everybody, and the lack of backgrounds in a lot of shots definitely pull the book back into the 90's. I'm not sure if it's Krantz or Lowe that adds cross-hatchings on a bunch of these images without backgrounds, but it really just draws attention to all the empty space: almost the entire Chain Gang vs other Sleepwalker fight has these lines, and it just gets irritating when they're over solid colored backgrounds for no reason. I think the fight is taking place in some part of the mindscape dimension, but I have to assume backgrounds still exist in that dimension. Again it's a bit hard to be too hard on Krantz, as this is basically the only professional comics job he ever had, but the results aren't exactly pretty.

90's Fashion: One member of the Chain Gang wears a skull belt buckle. Janine's prostitute outfit. The Chain Gang just wears t-shirts and jeans, making them the least intimidating dream-powered, mystic-chain having bunch of guys around.


  1. Is this issue lettered by Richard Starkings? Most of the letters, especially in the Hobgoblin/8-Ball panel, look like a handwritten version of the standard Comicraft font.

  2. while Rick notices there's something wrong with his dog Rambo, who is still sound asleep

    Honestly, far moreso than the sleep aliens and whatnot, I find the fact that Rick has a dog in a dorm room the most unbelievable part of this issue.