Warren Ellis has said that the second “arc” of “Doktor Sleepless” will be more about Heavenside, about the activities and people surrounding the eponymous character and, so far, two issues in, he’s been true to his word. Doktor Sleepless, aka John Reinhardt, has yet to make an appearance in this story, but his presence is palpable, in every character dictated by his existence in one way or another.
Fans of Ellis’ detective writing like “Fell” or “Frank Ironwine” will enjoy this issue as it centers on a new character, Alex Singer, a detective for the Heavenside police force. A new case involving a man suspected of killing one person and attempting to kill another has landed on her desk, but the suspect is already in custody, so it’s her job to figure out who he is and why he did those things.
Despite Ellis’ fascination with emerging technology, when it comes to his detectives, he always shuns advances in technology and embraces human intelligence. Singer is able to talk to the man and get him to open up, because of the things she observes about him, altering her approach to suit those needs. Much of her technique goes unsaid, simply presented to the reader. The interrogation of a suspect is about getting the knowledge through any means necessary and, sometimes, that means being polite. That Ellis keeps having his detectives act that way goes against the usual hard-nose-beat-it-out-of-them approach other fictional detectives invariably use.
That’s not to say that the issue isn’t full of Ellis’ wry sarcasm, but the writing also goes beyond the more superficial elements that people tend to pick up on in his writing and connects to some of his larger ideas about how we should treat one another. The killer, though, is a frighteningly insane man who appears normal one minute, but then says something that normal, sane people just do not say, especially when being interrogated by police.
This is Ivan Rodriguez’s strongest issue yet with his figures looking more complete, less rushed. Watching him grow as an artist through the course of this series has been a joy and I have no doubt that he will come out the other side highly in demand. He uses body language very well to convey what a character is thinking and, at a more basic level, what they’re like. Singer’s body language changes depending on who she is speaking to, which is something most artists don’t pick up on.
The identity of the suspect and what happens when Preston Stoker interferes will have possibly grave consequences for the good Doktor, and has Singer confronting the reality of what it means to be a cop in Heavenside. Warren Ellis and Ivan Rodriguez are doing strong work on “Doktor Sleepless” and people should start paying attention.