One of the advantages of a shared fictional universe is the picking up of someone else’s toys to do more with them than their creators got around to. Whilst the appeal of creator owned IP and stories does tend to speak for itself, being able to take interesting characters from someone else’s mind and taking them in new places can lead to interesting stories too. The mini-series Point Blank and the follow-up maxi-series Sleeper were excellent examples of how this can be done, whilst still adding new characters to it.
Point Blank was released in August 2002. Written by Ed Bubaker with pencils by Colin Wilson, it told the tale of Cole ‘Grifter’ Cash, a member of the WildC.A.T.S who was helping out another Team 7 alum Jack Lynch who was searching the underworld for information on an old protege of his called Holden Carver. Carver has started working for Tao (Tactically Augmented Organism) a former member of Wild.C.A.T.S whose intelligence usually dwarves everyone around him. Part way through the series, Lynch is shot in the head and everyone lost and confused, with the exception of Tao, who is ruling his growing little criminal syndicate that no one knows exists.
This thread was picked back up in Sleeper #1 a couple of months later. Brubaker returned and this time was joined by Sean Phillips who carried the story forward by focusing on Holden Carver, who it turned out was working for Tao on an undercover assignment from Lynch. With Lynch in a coma following his gunshot, Carver is trapped as only Lynch is aware of the assignment and the whole world thinks he’s gone over to the bad guys.
Sleeper carried on in the superhero noir style of Point Blank, but this told a more spy-themed story. Holden was affected by a piece of alien tech and could no longer feel anything, but could conduct pain and damage to other people. Cut off from his friends, his fiancee and even his own body, he must become more of his cover to survive.
This is a tense series full of twists and turns, friends become enemies and back again and you can see how this wears on the main character. We also get treats of characters like XXX-Ray, a coward who is kept around because he can see through anything. Genocide Jones, who’s back story sort of explains why he is such a violent and nihilistic soul. The standout star of these new characters is Miss Misery, who maintains her health and vitality by doing things she knows are wrong. Theft, violence, sex with the wrong people and even being verbally cruel, it’s what she needs to do to stay alive, literally.
It never gives you the idea that Holden is a hero, his talent of surviving means he is capable of committed horrible crimes to protect his cover and the mission and as his safe extraction and exoneration become more and more unlikely, Holden starts to blur the line between posing as a criminal and actually being one. Is he a talented survivor? Or is he more like the bad guys than he wants to admit, in fact as he learns more about his former employers, he starts seeing less and less of a difference between the two of them and his options to survive this whole thing is becoming limited.
All told, this series is a lot of fun and the whole story from soup to nuts is 25 issues (or 5 tpbs) long and is purely and simply self-contained. To be honest, the first trade (Point Blank) is not essential to understand or enjoy Sleeper, which for the most part is its own thing. Either way it’s a solid and engaging story from a writer with form of crime/spy/noir stories that are high quality and an art team perfectly suited for the genre they find themselves in.
I have re-read this series recently and 3rd or 4th time I still enjoyed it. Looking forward to looking into some more WildStorm hits of yesteryear.