Monsters, mystery, and madness may be closer than you think. Chaos and intrigue permeate the surface of a seemingly calm facade in the new series, “The Wake,” from Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy.
Written by Scott Snyder
Illustrated by Sean Murphy
“THERE’S SOMETHING DOWN THERE…”
When Marine Biologist Lee Archer is approached by the Department of Homeland Security for help with a new threat, she declines, but quickly realizes they won’t take no for an answer. Soon she is plunging to the depths of the Arctic Circle to a secret, underwater oilrig where they’ve discovered something miraculous and terrifying…
Writer Scott Snyder (BATMAN, AMERICAN VAMPIRE) and artist Sean Murphy (PUNK ROCK JESUS) bring their acclaimed talents to this sci-fi/horror epic that explores the horrors of the deep, probes the origins of human history, and leaps far beyond to a frightening future.
The greatest success of “The Wake” #1 hinges on the successful portrayal of the nearness of mystery. Instead of creating a new villain, the series builds a mythology that reminds us that our world is already full of frightening threats. The familiarity of the world in which this book is set only adds to its horror, as the security of the characters is systematically ripped away. The panic, anxiety, and fear they experience is relatable at every turn. Exploring ordinary concerns like the loss of control, or disappointing one’s child; more specific phobias, like confinement or claustrophobia; and supernatural terrors, Snyder deftly investigates the relationship between humanity and fear. Whether considering the unknown world beneath the ocean’s surface, or the madness under the calm facade of acquaintances; we are constantly reminded that we should fear the unseen more than the overtly threatening.
Even the title of the series, “The Wake,” seems calm on the surface, but holds a storm of meaning and significance. Wake refers to a disturbance in the surface of water. In other cases, the word means, ‘to rouse from slumber.‘ A third use of the word refers to, ‘a wake,’ the funerary tradition of sitting watch over the dead. Funereal wakes safeguard against the possibility of burying a living person. The original tradition dictated that concerned parties should keep watch over the body for a day and night, in case the deceased woke up. Each of the word’s definition seem apt after delving into this issue. The title suits the book perfectly, and operates on a number of levels.
“The Wake” #1 begins with a frightening glimpse of a future that looks bleak and dangerous; before returning to the main narrative, which is set two hundred years earlier. Having seen the future, it is impossible to believe that there will be any happy endings for the cast of characters introduced in this issue. The sense of inevitably impending calamity builds tension and creates suspense, setting the tone for the entire series. The initial sequence is beautifully illustrated. Murphy’s skillful line and unique scale generate a perfect point of entry, as the audience is invited to step in and have a look at what becomes of all of us. The movement of the figure on the first page draws the eye into the work. After getting the attention of the audience in this first sweeping motion, Murphy never lets go. Beautifully austere settings, and moody colors create a world worthy of the new characters introduced by this series. The artwork and the characters themselves represent a pitch-perfect combination that never allows the audience to forget the book’s origins in our own ‘real-world.’
The cast of the “The Wake,” is intriguing. Each character seems to have lived an entire life, bringing a rich history and unique perspective to the group dynamic. They come together, aboard a submarine each believing that their unique expertise is needed to help solve a shadowy puzzle. The team is comprised of: Agent Cruz, the man behind the curtain who has been pulling everyone’s strings; Dr. Marin, a professor of folklore and mythology; Meeks, a bristly biologist; Bob Wainwright, and his ex-employee, Lee Archer. Like Bob, Lee is a marine biologist, and the pair seem to share quite a history. Lee represents another success for “The Wake,” she is a relatable and complex female character. She seems intelligent, driven, and realistic. Ever the master of characterization and relationship building, Snyder’s facility with this aspect of storytelling is evident in Lee. Lee’s backstory is flawlessly integrated to this narrative, her motivation for following Agent Cruz to the Arctic is impeccably clear, and her interactions with those around her are revealing. As we learn more about Lee, we are continually shown, never told, who this character is. Murphy’s renderings of the cast members are articulate and evocative. Minimal shadows and wide-open fields of color characterize the unique look of his figures. The emotions which the characters experience come through beautifully in his artwork. Expressive, emotive, and ever-appealing, his character work is as brilliant as Snyder’s.Continued below
Throughout the issue security and normalcy are systematically ripped away; leaving the audience with the sensation that the reality we know is littered with secrets and possibilities that bubble just beneath the surface. The dramatic conclusion of “The Wake” #1 introduces a mystery that is sure to make readers impossibly curious. Unanswered questions, strong characters, and an honest sensation of terror will draw you in, and leave you wanting more. Beautiful to look at, and a joy to read, “The Wake” #1 is a deft display of creative skill that touches on the most frightening aspects of being human.
Final Verdict: 9.5 – While there are a lot of fish in the comic book sea, this one is a keeper.