When Vertigo announced its defying new titles for its “relaunch” last year, the one that really caught my eye and stuck out was The Wake; an action-packed horror mermaid epic that spans millions of years. If that wasn’t enough to grab my attention, it has a superstar team in writer Scott Snyder (Batman, American Vampire) and artist Sean Murphy (Punk Rock Jesus).

Last week presented us with the tenth and final chapter in this Mer epic, and to start this review off with brutal honesty, I was left feeling underwhelmed and disappointed after reading it. This truly made me sad, as for a while it was one of the books on my pull list that I most looked forward to reading. It was always top on my pile, and never got tossed in the infamous “unread” stack sitting on my bookshelf. I couldn’t help but feeling this sense of dread come over me, like I had just wasted an incredible amount of time and attention on a series that originally had brought me so much fun and joy.

I didn’t want that to be the case. There had to be something I missed, right? So I went back and re-read the whole thing, from beginning to end, in one sitting. When all was said and done, one thing was perfectly clear; this comic is much better read all at once (or in two parts), as opposed to being read over the ten to twelve months it took to come out. With all the other books on my pull list, and the month waiting between issues, it was easy to miss something either minor or important to the overall story. Heck, there were even things that took place in issue one that didn’t get brought up again until 200 years later in issue eight. Eight months is a long time to have to remember something that could play a factor in whether or not a story can be comprehended.

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There are so many intricacies to this story that come together when read in one sitting that are easy to miss when reading it monthly. Snyder is really good at seeding subplots and weaving them together over a long period of time, and these little details need to be appreciated and noticed to make this story the exceptional horror/sci-fi tale that it really is. After all, when you set up a drama like this that spans millions of years and jumps all over that time frame, you have to be detailed in the myth of the story. I’m such a huge fan of “blink and you’ll miss it” details, because it makes the second read through as enjoyable as the first.

So where does all of this land this comic on a rating scale? I’m still unsure, but will hopefully have a better idea by the end of this review.

Some of you may be well aware that the central story in The Wake takes place over two different time periods; the first set in the not too distant future, and the next 200 years later. These are broken up into two different stories that interweave with each other, the first using up the first five issue, and the latter taking up the last five.

Warning: Minor spoilers follow (I’ll try really hard not to give too much away, but I do want to talk about this story)

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In keeping with my honesty policy mentioned before about this series, I stick to my guns that the first half was immensely better than the second. It follows Dr. Lee Archer, a cetologist who has been tasked with helping to decode a strange animal call recorded in the Arctic, and is commissioned by her former government bosses of the Department of Homeland Security.

This part of the story harkens back to the feeling I had the first time I watched Alien. I’m sure I’ve made this comparison before, but it really is the highest compliment I can give anything that even remotely falls into any kind of horror category.

You see, Dr. Archer and her new team of oceanic misfits get suckered and lured into something called a “Ghost Rig,” an illegal oil mining structure on the floor of the Arctic Ocean. It’s secluded, practically unreachable, and there is almost no escape from it. So when it’s revealed that the mysterious creature they have come to research turns out to be a ferocious mermaid, one that the workers on the rig have actually captured, everyone (including myself) becomes a little weary.

Then the unimaginable happens. The mer breaks free from its confinements, and even uses its hallucination inducing venom to get one of the workers to essentially flood the rig, trapping everyone inside. The tension in this part of the story is palpable. When reading it all at once, you are so immersed in the terror of being trapped inside a confined space with a man-eating mermaid that the worry for Dr. Archer becomes all too real. Panic mode sets in, and you wonder how in the world these poor souls are going to escape from their underwater tomb.

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As we get closer to the end of the first half, one of my favorite scenes from comics of recent years presents itself in truly epic proportions. After finding out that there are more mermaids around than just the one that had once been captured, we are revealed a truly remarkable sight; one of the king mers. The staggering size of this thing is awe inspiring, and when he shows up, you just know there is no hope for our heroes.

I want to take a quick second to talk about my favorite character in the whole series before I move on the the latter half. Meeks. This guy is a straight up badass, in every sense of the word. Not only is he an incredibly smart engineer (the one who designed the Ghost Rig, in fact), but he’s also a fearless, sadistic man, one who thrives on adrenaline, and he’s an incredibly fun character to read. Two big thumbs up for Meeks.

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After issue five we jump forward 200 years; long after the mers have melted the ice caps and raised water levels, long after the apparent death of our previous heroes, and long after governments have collapsed under the weight of the new world. Yes, this parallels Water World in a lot of ways, but it only takes the good parts from it. It’s a lot more futuristic, while still keeping the obvious downfalls from technology and innovation.

Our heroine here is Leeward, a precarious mer huntress determined to prove right an old myth about a legend to bring down the end of the mermaids once and for all; a signal that will guide her to some magic net, to scoop them all up and away forever. The only thing standing in her way is The Arm, the new government’s army that is as relentless as it is ferocious. This new government wants to keep this mystery signal hush hush, they don’t want anyone finding it, or following it. But why? What on Earth could possibly be useful in living in complete fear of the monsters in the ocean that are hunting us to extinction, and denying anything that has the slightest chance of saving us?

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Although a little hurried, Snyder does touch on politics that we could all take a lesson from. When not asking questions is much easier than finding out the truth, what chance do we have for self preservation? How can we advance and evolve if we keep ourselves trapped by our own ignorance to what is happening in the world around us?

Leeward refuses to let herself be contained from free will and thought as she hunts down this signal, and once she does The Arm tries to teach her a valuable lesson about disobeying orders. Here it becomes clear that The Arm will just beat into submission anyone who dates rebel against them. Expats are forced to work old cruise ships turned junk haulers that use garbage to build up the reefs protecting what’s left of the continent. From here, Leeward must find a way to escape, to track the signal, find the weapon, and save the world. Without wanting to spoil anything for anyone that has yet to read it, I will leave it here for now.

This world really is a fascinating sight, and Murphy has done a fantastic job of bringing it to life. The ships are outstanding, from air to sea to land. His vision of this post glacial land is rendered gritty and vast. Some panels are entire stories told in a single frame.

Both Murphy and Snyder do an amazing job at building this story and making it one of the better complete reads I’ve had in a while. So while my initial reaction upon first read was disappointment, I can safely say that after reading it all in one sitting, this is definitely a great story. But keep in mind that I recommend reading it all at once, and not over ten months time. And if you were like me and read it as it came out, and feel a little disappointed, I implore you to give it another try.

The Wake can be purchased at your local comic book shop, or online digitally at Comixology.

Overall Score
90 %

An Earth shattering mermaid horror.

Overall Story 90%
Part 1 95%
Part 2 85%
Art 95%

About The Author

Greetings nerds! I suppose you've come here to not only satisfy your curiosity on what an opinionated fool such as myself looks like, but also to delve into the mind of one of the worlds finest super villains. Well you aren't going to get either, so deal with it.

By day I'm a mild mannered creative in advertising. I make pretty things move for big screen, local advertisements. By night I am a photographer, video gamer, movie buff, Pokemon Master (yes, I have a completed Pokedex and I battle frequently), monster hunter, hockey enthusiast, writer, giant mech and kaiju lover, and last but not least, a crazy and erratic comic book collector. First and foremost, I love Batman. I love creator owned comics. The big two are nice and all, but I'm always in need of new and fresh ideas, people that break the mold of the medium. I like books that aren't afraid to tear the industry apart to tell their story. Yes I reread and over analyze probably far more than I should. Yes my passion is so great that I love books sometimes for no reason, and hate others because of minor little nitpicks. But I wouldn't have it any other way.
So take me as I am, fellow readers. This is me in a nutshell.

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