An all-star creative team plunges the depths for a stunning debut about what lies beneath.
While DC/Vertigo may not have experienced as many highs in the past year as they have in decades gone by, some of their bigger titles have been from Scott Snyder (American Vampire) and Sean Murphy (Punk Rock Jesus). Yet the union of the hottest writer in the industry right now (for Batman) and arguably the most visually arresting artist in Murphy is something to get excited about, and first issue of the The Wake‘s 10-issue maxi-series doesn’t disappoint in the slightest.
In the drowned ruins of a city, a green-haired girl floats to what is left of the surface. After communicating with a dolphin, the sea springs to life and gives chase. 200 years earlier, in what appears to be our own time period, Marine Biologist Lee Archer is approached by the Department of Homeland Security for help with a new problem, and she is pressured into accepting. Aboard a sophisticated submarine, Archer is united with a rag-tag team of scientists who are each specialists in their chosen field. Yet they are not telling her everything, and something is definitely down there with them. Plus, how does this connect with events that played out 100,000 years ago?
From the first panel, The Wake immediately hooks you into a story that seems like no other. In this first issue, we are given three different time periods to consider, but few clues as to how they might connect. Yet more than anything, Snyder has created a complete world, one that is both lived-in and ripe for exploration. In a few pages of conversation between Archer and her son, and subsequently Archer and Agent Astor Cruz of the DHS, we learn more about the character than some books give us in their entire run. It’s her grounded believability that allows us to simply go with the flow as a series of fantastical events begin to unfold. Some of this may pull on familiar tropes from film and literature, with equal measures of Jules Verne and Ridley Scott present, but this is simply the set-up. The reveal of the last few pages, it would seem, gets us ready for the main narrative.
Murphy’s art is gorgeous. If you had most recently seen his work on the gritty black and white pages of Punk Rock Jesus, it is almost a shock to the system to see his style spring to vivid new life with a colour job. The colourist is, of course, also one of the best in the business. Matt Hollingsworth (Hawkeye) brings his distinctive palette to The Wake, mixing understated hues with an idiosyncratic combination of ‘worn’ and dotted backgrounds. Murphy shows us a variety of styles here, from the delicate opening, in which the floating woman is almost consumed by the monolithic landscape through to the claustrophobic cool of the underwater environments. Each of the characters have an individual flavour, ensuring each personality remains memorable at this early stage. The use of light and shadow is something that will play an important part in the future of this series.
With some maxi-series, it is sometimes worth waiting until the book finishes playing out to dip in. This will not be the case with The Wake, which delivers a debut issue that is intriguing, filled with well-rounded characters and surprising at each turn. Put together by a team of creators all at the top of their game, we are genuinely excited to see this unfold over the next year.
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