Everyone (well, everyone reading this booklog) knows comic books aren’t just about costumed superheroes, that as a medium they can tell stories in any genre. That said, they do seem to be uniquely well-suited for telling stories about superheroes, so it’s cool to see that they can tell superhero stories in any genre, too. The particular genre that Ed Brubaker’s Sleeper: Out in the Cold and Sleeper: All False Moves cover is the spy thriller.
Like most spy thrillers, the books get a lot of mileage out of uncertainty, so even basic background is inclued slowly. There’s essentially no way for me to write anything about these books without spoiling something, so if you’d like to read them with a blank slate, I’ll tell you that they’re good, and then you can go off to Amazon, order them, and quit reading this.
Now, for those of you who don’t mind back-cover level spoilers, the premise is similar to that of Alias (the TV show, not the Bendis comic): Our hero is a deep cover double agent inside of a criminal organization, doing dastardly deeds just to maintain his cover. And oh yeah, the only guy who knows he’s really working for the good guys is in a coma, so there’s no way out for him.
As you’d imagine, this lends itself to all sorts of moral ambiguity, conflicted emotions, and so forth. It lends itself a little too easily, in fact — it’d be very easy for this to spin out of control into silly episodic melodrama. That it doesn’t do so, and instead works unexpected angles and unforeseen plot points, is a pleasant surprise. The story’s not complete yet, and I’m always skeptical of incomplete stories (far, far too many works start out strong and end up lame), so I’ll hold off on unconditional encomia until I see where things are going; but for now, it looks good.