Filed under: Exquisite Reviews | Tags: Alasdair Stuart, Astor Cruz, HP Lovecraft, Jared K Fletcher, Jordie Bellaire, Lee Archer, Matt Hollingsworth, scott snyder, sean murphy
Written by Scott Snyder
Art by Sean Murphy
Colour by Matt Hollingsworth
Letters by Jared K. Fletcher
Cover by Sean Murphy & Jordie Bellaire
Published by DC
Buckle up. From 200 years in the future to 10,000 years in the past The Wake sprints along and insists you keep up with it. Opening with a relic hunter and her dolphin partner getting more than they wanted in a flooded city, it cuts back to the present (ish, there are subtle hints this is the very near future) and Doctor Lee Archer. A Cetologist working in Gig Harbour in Washington, she’s approached by DHS Agent Astor Cruz to assist in identifying an extremely unusual recording. It sounds like whale song but more nuanced and complex and Archer, struggling with the custody rights for her son and the minimal funding she’s on, jumps at the chance to work on it. Only neither of them are telling the other the full truth…
Base camp for the mission, on Alaska’s south slope, becomes Lee’s first meeting with her team and getting an idea of the scale of the operation, the implications of it and exactly how awkward it is for Lee to be in the same room as her old boss. The closing pages hit you with not one but three killer surprises and then you’re out of the issue and watching it speed off into the distance.
Scott Snyder may be best known for his work on Batman right now but his horror writing is arguably better. I’ve talked about Severed here before, and his American Vampire run has also garnered huge amounts of praise. The Wake is as good, mixing the sort of high-concept airport thriller pitch that always starts with ‘A maverick team of scientists’ and finishes with me exploding with excitement with moments of real, queasy horror. There are only three disturbing moments in this issue but each one hits like a right cross, shaking you and Lee out of the comforting lie of the present and showing what lies behind it. Something is very wrong at base camp, something is very wrong in Lee’s past and the two look set to collide across nine more issues of flat out, full on modern Lovecraftian horror.
Sean Murphy’s work is every bit the equal of Snyder’s script. His characters are realistic and, crucially, feel genuinely fragile and his location work is superb. The focus of the art shifts constantly and Murphy makes everything work, from the Roland Emmerich nightmare of the first few pages to the terrified caveman of the last. Matt Hollingsworth’s colours mesh with it beautifully, especially in the transition from the pink sunset over Alaska to the cold, nautical blue of basecamp. Special mention has to go to Murphy and Hollingsworth’s work on the penultimate page, where colour and inks combine to give the book its definitive moment of queasy horror. Jared K Fletcher’s lettering is equally vital, taking in everything from normal dialogue to the eerie, keening song Lee is hired to investigate with ease.
The Wake is Snyder at his best, a vastly ambitious but still completely accessible piece of character driven horror. In a period where people are rightly worried about the slow death of the Vertigo imprint, this is a much needed demonstration of just how vital it still is. If you’re a fan of science fiction, horror, HP Lovecraft or Michael Crichton-style technothrillers then this is most definitely for you.
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