Pick of the Week

Pick of the Week – 05.29.2013 – The Wake #1

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1045
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Avg Rating: 4.5
iFanboy Community Pick of the Week Percentage: 50.0%
 
Users who pulled this comic:
Story by Scott Snyder
Art by Sean Murphy
Colors by Matt Hollingsworth
Cover by Sean Murphy & Andy Kubert

Size: 32 pages
Price: 2.99

“I can’t fight the feeling
I’m born to kill prey
To survive an attack
There’s only one way
Battle to the death
That’s how sharks play
Weapons left behind
We dueling with the mind
You blind, crippled, or crazy
You’re real easy to find
Struggling to flow with hemorrhages in your throat
Getting the lap dance while I smash through your boat”

— “Deepest, Bluest; LL Cool J

1. The Quest

The waves sang as they devoured the man, right before Dr. Archer’s eyes. It took him and left her with only that sound. When a government man arrives some time later, he plays the song again, and she has no recourse but to follow him all those fathoms downward into the dark, a sailor drawn to a siren. There she brushes up against the egos of other specialists, those devoted to knowing the unknowable sea. Those men and something very old.

Centuries from now, a woman glides through the spires of a once glorious city long since drowned. She makes contact with a dolphin outfitted with instruments, her partner in research. They both flee when the ocean swells, the head and shoulders of a watery golem rising up as if from a bath. The sea writhes and gives chase.

At the dawn of human civilization, a shambling cave-dweller uncovers a device he was never meant to see, and bleeds for his curiosity.

2. The Call

We are made of stars, so they say. We churn as oceans too. That sounded right, but I wasn’t sure. I turned to Ryan Haupt, our resident man of science.

“Yeah, you can say that.”

It has to do with all that water, all that salt. Something about the proximity of each cell to a capillary. That’s what Ryan, my scientist, says.

We are made of stars and we churn as oceans too. We long for both, despite the darkness and the cold. That’s a womb thing. Unfortunately, I don’t have a Freudian on call. Though Frasier is on Netflix…

With The Wake, Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy plumb the depths of our love-fear relationship with the world’s oceans and what lies beneath. The disembodied voice of Zach Braff assures us that there is nothing so clear as a glass of water, filtered and held aloft. As for the oceans from whence it came, time and tumult and life and death and expanse roil up such murk that vast realms of our world go unknown to us. The oceans brim with mystery and romance and terror.

And all of those are kind of the same thing.

That could actually be Jungian, now that I think about it. 

3. Base Camp

This idea of specialists keeps bobbing to the surface for good reason. When Dr. Archer is shanghaied by a G-Man in a helicopter, the cetologist joins a motley crew of researchers in the grand tradition of movie blockbusters like Jurassic Park and Prometheus (stay with me now). Archer knows her whales. Agent Astor Cruz is the pushy, badger-faced government help. Dr. Marin, professor of Folklore and Mythology at Brown, has written books about sea monsters and dresses like Chekhov in Voyage Home.  Meeks looks kind of like a vampire in a fur-trim Rasputin ensemble. He’s not entirely forthcoming about his speciality, though don’t be surprised if his cabin is lined with photographs of Archer. Bob Wainright used to be Archer’s boss at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration until he fired her. With Sean Murphy’s aesthetic, it’s a welcome throwback to the high-pressure, confined space paranoia of Alien or The Thing. That Archer has only agreed to this whole thing because she’s been promised custody of her son and a shot at closure for a past trauma adds to the familiarity. You’ll hear no complaints from me though. It’s the cozy and time-honored scenario that gave us Jeff Goldblum’s sexy and peculiar Ian Malcolm and Yaphet Kotto doing his Yaphet Kotto thing on the Nostromo.

It’s a little like a heist, each member of the team a social outcast with a deep knowledge or obsession with a specific field. Such is their singular focus, they may actually be helpless in any other situation. Hell, Archer doesn’t know what an HDMI cable is. Together, though, they’re a world class research team, equally as suited to this clandestine operation as they are for entertaining us in what may well be the final 100 or so minutes of their lives. Or in this case, the next few months.

Given the scope suggested by the prologue and epilogue, set 200 years in the future and 100,000 years ago respectively, grounding this story in the familiar trappings of a research team thriller will likely prove a smarter choice than some might expect. The hidden depths of an iceberg have gone on to surprise mariners before. Yeah, that thing locked up in that tank won’t stay locked up for long. People are going to die. That’s something to latch on to while the pipe is installed for an even deeper story spanning thousands of years. And fun will be had in the process.

Scientists unlucky enough to confront the truth they’ve long hunted? I’m always up for that story.

4. The Storytellers

Though Punk Rock Jesus is surely the most personal and least inhibited Sean Murphy outing to date, it has the benefit of a singular vision. Of his collaborations, those with Scott Snyder feel the most harmonious. Two feral wolf boys baying at the moon. Snyder leads Murphy to his darkest depths, and together they dredge up some creepy stuff. His characters snarl with a more acute brand of cunning.

Somewhere in a drawer we’ll find evidence of Snyder’s Faustian pact to work almost solely with the industry’s top artists, but Murphy may rival Greg Capullo as the definitive creative partner. It’s a close race.

For Snyder’s part, The Wake reads as an elegant setting for his ongoing search for beauty in terror. There are few more tantalizing settings for primordial mystery than the sea. It’s also a wonderful venue for upsetting equillibrium. The closer we get to our essence, our foundation, the more unnerving it ought to be. Snyder captures that beautifully as humans from all seasons confront the incoming tide.

Like a tongue absently probing a vacant socket for that lost canine, I worry after Skinner and Pearl. Lingering there in the A section, the shelves feel decidedly anemic for want of American Vampire and its delectable approach to century-spanning, homegrown horror.  

In the absence of American Vampire, in the pining for it, it’s become readily apparent that Scott Snyder understands our bogeymen in a way so many pretenders simply don’t. True Blood? Too on the nose. Jabs at a shallow vein. What you want is under the nose. The philtrum. The constants we take for granted on a daily basis. The givens that sometimes aren’t. He plays Jenga with our very foundations and those of our most beloved characters. The supposedly vacant 13th floors of Gotham’s oldest high rises. The kindly old salesman with the General Electric contract. The harmless drifter lounging poolside. The oceans that churn within us.

The Wake isn’t simply a rush to fill the space of American Vampire during the hiatus, but it’s certainly a worthy companion.

If the ocean is truly in our blood, Snyder has found another way into our veins.

 

Paul Montgomery
Could really go for a shrimp cocktail actually.
paul@ifanboy.com

 


Comments

  1. Snyder is truly blessed to have two fantastic artists in Murphy and Hollingsworth on this. One of the best looking comics to come out this year and we still have 9 issues to go. Can’t wait to see what more thrills and (more then likely) scares Snyder has cooking for this story.

  2. Most of the planet is covered by ocean, but Submariner and Aquaman don’t really do that justice. Great to see such talent doing a book that seems like it will give us a sense of the mystery of the oceans. Great pick!

  3. tripleneck tripleneck (@tripleneck) says:

    This could have been an Image book, but it’s not. I’m glad to see Vertigo reclaim some of the territory that’s been ceded to the indies recently. I fully expect Lemire’s Trillium to further the imprint’s revitalization, too.

  4. It seems like forever since this was first announced. Happy to say it was worth the wait. Sean Murphy is just mind blowing on this issue. The scenes with the whale and base camp in particular.

  5. Top Ten Absolute for the win!

    Matthew

  6. It feels surreal that Fury Max was not the pic of the week lol, but I did love this book. A little bit of a Lovecraft I think in it.

    • The set-up felt very much like a modern Lovecraft re-telling to me, something you get a lot of if you read a lot of horror and stuff by Alan Moore like I do, but it didn’t detract from it in any way.

  7. Gotta hand it to you for putting a huge smile on my face this early with those Deepest, Bluest lyrics.

    • Ahh yea, any review to start of with ( or not start off with lol ) the lyrics to ” Deepest, Bluest ” is an instant classic.

  8. This review was amazing.

  9. It’s hard to not want to compare it to the creatures in Aquaman.

    That being said, this was one of the best paced comics I have read all year. I know it is cliche to say, but this felt like I was watching a movie.

    I don’t know what else to say other than that I will be reading the next 9 issues as of now. And I even got my non comic reading roommate to check it out and enjoy it.

  10. Wow this was late. I agree with your pick.

  11. I also thought this unfolded like a movie. Great character details, a mystery, a team… this would make an awesome film, provided it ends well. This hit on all cylinders for me. The only book that I read that can challenge it was Adventures of Superman, which was wonderful. I would be fine with either as pick.

  12. So excited for this, there’s some recent gaps in my pull-list and this like just the kind of thing I’m looking to replace my losses. Glad to hear it’s POTW, I think the last time Snyder got the title was “Batman #18” so another plus. I can’t wait to read this.

  13. I thought Severed was going to be great, too.

    And we all know how that turned out.

  14. Fury Max was probably my pick of the week(that or Remender/Romita’s Captain America, which is REALLY good), but The Wake is a fine choice. Excellent Sean Murphy/ Matt Hollingsworth artwork, filling out so many great character details and world building. Effectively introduces the cast, the setting, and leaves us with some intriguing question. A very strong start.

  15. My bet is that most people will pick Fury Max, X-Men or the Wake as their PotW.

  16. ochsavidare ochsavidare (@ochsavidare) says:

    A great review for a fantastic issue. Good job!

    Sean Murphy did some amazing spreads, and the scope of the story is just epic.

  17. This was an amazing looking issue. I wasn’t going to pick this or X-men up but ended up grabbing both and they were probably the best two books I read this week. For me x-men was probably my pick.

  18. I thought the “Flak Jackets” hat that Dr Archer was wearing weas a nice touch.

  19. Fantastic review, Paul. This is almost my pick. I had to go with Fury Max but I’m sure The Wake will sustain this level of quality.