What would happen if every woman in the world fell asleep and couldn’t wake up again? That is the startling premise in this new horror series adaptation of a book by Stephen and Owen King. Stephen King is a master at creating a large cast of characters, setting up an impossible situation, and examining what sort of consequences come from the pressure. He and his son do exactly that in this unsettling apocalyptic graphic novel.

Set in the small town of Dooling in Appalachia, the story centers on Lily and Clint Norcross, the local sheriff, and her husband, a psychologist at the local women’s prison. As a mysterious young woman brutally murders two meth dealers, a strange “Aurora” sleeping sickness begins to overcome women as they fall asleep. They are wrapped in a cocoon and become homicidally violent if the cocoon is removed. It doesn’t take long before the world enters a giant collective freak out. As powerful women are gradually removed from consciousness, what do the remaining men do? What will women do to stay awake in this situation? What would men do to protect their wives and daughters? And as the mysterious murderer turns herself into the local women’s prison, what happens to her as it becomes clear that she is the only woman left who can sleep and wake up again? As with many King novels, our basest natures are examined and many characters are revealed to be bad to the core. A world only populated by men looks pretty stark as the plot progresses. It should be added that the writers do address what happens to non-binary people in a thoughtful way as well.

Just because the women are asleep, doesn’t mean that they are gone from the story. The world they wake up in poses many interesting questions as well, but most of these have to be answered in the next volume of the series.

Writer Rio Youers ably adapts the larger novel to the comic book format by paring down some of the characters to get to the essence of the story. Artist Alison Sampson packs a ton of storytelling into her panels. Her art is photo-realistic and all the characters are based on real people, so it’s easy to tell characters apart. Her depictions of nature are gorgeous and disturbing as well. Colorist Triona Ferrell does an amazing job blending colors from page to page. Everything is vibrant while being creepy and unsettling. Most pages have two or three tones of color that infuse each panel with life while complementing the story. My only quibble is the use of dark colors, mostly black, as the background in the speech bubbles. It seems like this happens more and more these days and it does make reading a challenge, especially in a digital format. A more traditional black letter on a white background would work better. 

Most libraries with an adult graphic novel collection will want to pick this one up.  It’s a well-thought-out adaptation of a popular novel. There are lots of folks who would like to read the story but may not want to dive into a long prose novel. I look forward to reading the next volume when it comes out.  There is also a TV series in the works and I’m finding comics often gain popularity when a TV or movie adaptation comes out. Another reason to have this in your library.

Sleeping Beauties, vol. 1
By Stephen King, Owen King, Rio Youers
Art by  Alison Sampson, Triona Farrell
IDW, 2021
ISBN: 9781684057603

Publisher Age Rating:  17+
Related media:  Book to Comic

NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+)

  • Mark

    | He/Him Young Adult Librarian, Cedar Mill Library


    Mark Richardson is the Young Adult Librarian at the Cedar Mill Library in Portland Oregon where he selects adult and young adult graphic novels, YA fiction & nonfiction, video games and adult music for the library. He also plans lots of activities for local teens ranging from art contests to teen trivia to Pokemon parties. If this sounds like a dream job, it is. Sometimes he has to pinch himself to make sure he really gets to do all of this. He’s been reading comics for as long as he can remember and has been known to present an occasional conference sessions on graphic novels at the Oregon Library Association’s annual conference.

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