Sleep is a liability. Z-Sups, a new pharmaceutical breakthrough, has eliminated the need for sleep, and humanity has reached a level of productivity never before imagined. Sixteen-hour shifts have become the norm, and it seems that everyone is pumping their freed up time back into work.
That is the world Drew, the protagonist of Power Nap, lives in and, unfortunately for Drew, he has a rare allergy to Z-Sups, meaning he can only work for a mere gasp ten hours a day. Though with a three hour commute separating him and his bed, he is up and running around for his employer, and incidentally the makers of Z-Sups, TheCorporation Inc., sixteen hours a day anyway. Most nights he can only find around five hours for sleep.
And that is causing him to lose his ever-loving mind.
Bachan, the artist for this series, has a reputation for his monsters. He is the artist and writer behind Vinny, el Perro de Balbuenea, which is a webcomic set in a world inhabited by monsters, and his art is easily one of the main draws of this comic. The writing can get a bit muddled and convoluted sometimes, but you are always drawn in by the visuals of Power Nap and the terrifying hallucinations that haunt Drew’s sleep-deprived consciousness.
The first chapter plays a game of ‘is he or isn’t he’ whenever these hallucinations appear, which can get a bit tiring. I’m not exactly a patient person, and the pacing of this comic can switch between a creeping crawl and sudden action nearly instantaneously. But I can respect the need to keep the main points of the plot hidden, and Maritza Campos, Power Nap’s writer, is very good at only revealing little chunks of information at a time. You become hooked, hoping that the next page will reveal just a bit more about Drew’s insane little world. Campos is also a master at mixing despair and humor, which gives Drew’s nightmarish hallucinations a tinge of realness. These aren’t just random monsters trying to attack him – they have personalities that playfully reflect Drew’s lack of confidence and meaning.
Once you hit Chapter two, the story does pick up. We find out the something is breaking through, and TheCorporation Inc. is involved with containing whatever that is.
And, until Chapter Two, Drew was a menial cog in the corporate machine; a position many of us know all too well. The sheer size of TheCorporation, and the general increase in the productivity of nearly all of its employees, has turned the business into an all-too-obvious satire of Kafka-esque bureaucracy. Drew is stuck in the stapling department, which is the only place where anyone in the company is allowed to staple paperwork. His hallucinations prove to be his ticket out of stapling, at least for a few hours a day, as TheCorporation Inc. taps him to take part in a “sleep study.”
I really don’t want to ruin too much because it is here that the story gets really interesting, and does a great send-up to overused Superhero tropes and archetypes – something that Bachan, who worked for DC in the early 2000′s, I’m sure knows plenty about.
But from what I’ve been able to gather, it seems that the people who can sleep are a sort of tunnel. The subconscious links these monstrous apparitions to the real world, and it becomes the job of those who can sleep to contain them.
In comics, art is supposed to be as much of a medium of expression as the story and text, and yet so few modern comics utilize the art to reveal hidden subtexts and clues to the story. Power Nap does not fall into that trap, and there are visual cues that help explain parts of the story that aren’t confirmed outright by the comic’s text.
Forty pages separate the two panels below – the one on the left shows Z-Sup’s happy little blue mascot, and on the right are the “blue meanies,” unexplained inhabitants of the subconscious that fight against demons. There are just too many similarities to ignore, even if the comic’s story has yet to explain them, but it does seem that Z-Sups are involved in closing this tunnel.
Fair warning, you can get lost in this comic very, very easily. I’ve re-read it three times, and I still find clues and hints I didn’t catch before. Campos and Bachan are very, very careful not too reveal too much at once so, once you’re addicted to the story, it becomes a quest to piece together what you can from what has been said, and from what has been drawn.
Turtles and umbrellas are a common appearance, though who knows what their significance really is.
Power Nap just started Volume Two after a nearly three-month long hiatus, so now is a great time to get into the comic if you haven’t already. They have also released a hardcover of Volume One – it costs $30 including shipping, which is a little pricey, but you’ll get your money’s worth once you start poring over the pages for hints and clues. The art and the writing are spot on, and though the pacing can get a bit annoying, and sometimes causes the story to trip over itself, Power Nap is still easily one of the best serials out right now.