“THE WAKE” (Comic Review)
The sea has been fascinating curiosity seekers for centuries. The endless possibilities of what might be lurking in its deep, dark caverns have swirled in the imaginations of authors and artists alike, paving the way for DC/Vertigo’s most recent comic, THE WAKE. A fantastic take on the Old Ones mythos, it takes the uncertainty and madness of the ocean and sets it loose on an unsuspecting crew of scientists.
Already approved for ten issues, THE WAKE is a reassuring move for fans of DC/Vertigo who have feared that strong horror might have been put in the back burner in favor of their longer-running titles. If this is a sign of things to come, we might be seeing more ghoulish tales from our friends at Detective Comics.
THE WAKE centers on Lee Archer, a marine biologist who spends her days roaming the edges of the oceans, studying whale calls. One day, she is approached by Agent Cruz from Homeland Security who asks her to participate in a project. Initially refusing, she is eventually bribed with the possibility of getting custody of her son, and is suddenly shuffled off to the Antarctic in a sub that starts descending as soon as she boards. Here, she meets the rest of her crew, a fellow group of scientists who, like her, have not been told anything about the project. Finding themselves banded together for reasons unclear to anyone but the Agent Cruz, all hell breaks loose when a crew member is brought to the hold covered in wounds – and Archer has the unfortunate experience of seeing something she was not yet prepared to see.
The comic does an excellent job of creating a tense atmosphere without resorting to over-the-top gore. Though there’s nothing wrong with a little blood and guts, it’s refreshing to see horror pay homage to a more traditional means of terror by playing with creeping isolation in a hostile environment. While harkening back to WEIRD TALES-esque grimness, THE WAKE doesn’t shy away from mixing modern technology with the disheartening feeling that even our guns, computers and test tubes cannot separate us from the unfathomable. A vain struggle against the waves of The Deep. Perhaps a reflection of our current world, where curiosity doesn’t always lead to favorable outcomes, THE WAKE walks a thin line between brilliance and insanity that only those with an unreasonable need for knowledge dare tread.
Scott Snyder, the quill behind the madness, has applied his incredible story-spinning abilities to this unique tale, creating a truly strange story of men and monsters. To be fair, he has had a lot of practice as the voice behind SWAMP THING and AMERICAN VAMPIRE, and he has carried over that experience to this original work. His writing is sharp and on-point and he has smoothly established a depth of character for each individual even at this early stage of the story. If the first issue is any indication of the rest of the series, it’s going to be a hell of a ride. The precise, linear art by Sean Murphy is a solid companion to Snyder’s words, working perfectly with the claustrophobic story. Well-placed shadows and beautiful coloring by Matt Hollingsworth add a subdued palate to the comic, and combined with the illustration, lead to a smooth visual progression that faithfully recreates the cold ocean floor of the Antarctic. A tale of deep sea fear and otherworldly creatures, THE WAKE is a strong addition to any collection.