Point Blank is billed as a prequel to Sleeper, and was serialised before Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips’ acclaimed series. While calling it a prequel isn’t a false description, it isn’t quite as simple as that. It’s Brubaker’s first dabble in the WildStorm universe of the early 21st century, so the same writer is on board, and it explains how IO director John Lynch came to be in a coma. Anyone who’s read Sleeper before Point Blank already knows, and that knowledge goes a fair way to nullifying what’s otherwise a readable mystery thriller with a clever twist. However, although he’s mentioned, don’t expect to see anything of Holden Carver and his mission until he’s introduced at the end.

The central figure here is Cole Cash, Grifter, sort of like James Bond with more attitude, his associations going back to the central event from which the WildStorm universe spilled out. Despite Lynch also being changed by that event, the pair have fallen out and gone their separate ways, so Cash is surprised to be contacted by Lynch about a mission he wants to keep private, undertaken to rectify a mistake. It involves Lynch resorting to a super power he only rarely uses. “That’s why he really wanted me along”, Cash muses, “he wanted someone to watch his back when he was at his most vulnerable. Someone who didn’t want him dead”.

There’s no shortage of people who might want Lynch dead, and once Lynchi is in a coma, Cash contacts  superhumans he can trust and adds more names to the list. It’s a dark and gloomy world, and drawn that way by Colin Wilson, who’s less realistic than Sean Phillips on Sleeper, and edging toward European cartooning. It’s a rare scene not set at night or somewhere with artificial light, and the gloomy colouring from Janet Gale accentuates the darkness. It takes a while to realise just how good Wilson is, because there’s nothing flashy about his pages, in which everything serves the story, but his vision is cinematic, his characters all lived-in, and there’s never a point where the people don’t look properly put together.

Cash’s narrative captions carry a fair portion of Point Blank, and Brubaker ensures they’re insightful, while deflecting attention away from what he’ll eventually reveal, which ties into what becomes a clever title. There’s much musing about the nature of covert operatives, their aims and their behaviour, and like Sleeper it’s a story about one man being pulled deeper into something they don’t entirely understand. When it comes, the revelation is terrifying.

This remains a solid mystery thriller, and is collected with Holden Carver’s story in The Sleeper Omnibus. Alternatively, what happens to Carver is told in Sleeper: Out in the Cold.