Space may be the final frontier, but our ocean still remains largely to be explored. Although our understanding of this enormous body of water is greater now than it was, say, 100 years ago, the ocean is still an enigmatic and undiscovered piece of the planet. Feeding off of this sense of mystery is Vertigo’s ongoing horror mini-series, The Wake. Written and illustrated by duo Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy, The Wake will undoubtedly have readers questioning whether or not it really is safe to go back into the water.
Despite its opening set 200 years in the future, The Wake‘s first five issues take place in 2014, following marine biologist Lee Archer as she’s persuaded by the Department of Homeland Security to investigate an unknown animal call off the coast of Alaska. Accompanied by other scientists to an illegal underwater oil rig, Lee is shocked to discover a creature of myth deep beneath the ocean’s surface. What initially starts out as an extraordinary chance to study and research for Lee and crew quickly plunges into a race for survival.
Synder has already proven himself to be an excellent writer with American Vampire (Vertigo) and several Batman books, and The Wake is no exception to his mastery of the craft. Straying away from the internal character monologues from his other works, Snyder’s writing has shifted with a slightly greater emphasis on the third person. Apart from this small change in style however, The Wake still very much retains Snyder’s use of distinct characters, believable dialogue, and great cliffhangers.
As far as illustrations, Murphy brings his usual style of fine, sharp lines to the project, helping to construct his and Snyder’s believable yet dangerous world. In regards to color, the series’ palette is by no means limited, but the colors are somewhat undersaturated, especially in comparison to the visual standards that the medium is typically known for. Yet, this washed-out appearance both adds to the aquatic setting of the story as well as its dark, murky tone.
Like most comics, the first five issues of The Wake make for a quick read. This brevity isn’t so much a result of the medium’s show-versus-tell format as it is from the excellent pacing laid out by Snyder. The words “fast paced” do well to describe the flow of the series so far, but Snyder manages to keep The Wake full of slower, more thoughtfully creepy moments. For instance, each issue opens with vague yet effectively haunting flashbacks from Earth’s past. These scenes include an asteroid of sorts striking into the planet’s side 3.8 billion years ago, as well as a massive shark poised to attack a seemingly deserted mammoth corpse. Likewise, the inclusion of the real world mystery of “The Loneliest Whale,” and lore surrounding catastrophic floods of various civilizations help to counterbalance the story’s more intense sequences.
For all the praise that can be given to The Wake via a review, no justice can truly be done to explain exactly how thrilling Snyder and Murphy’s latest collaboration is without ruining it. The only real way to fully enjoy The Wake is to experience it for one’s self. Whether through physical or digital copies, The Wake is a must-read worthy for any fan of horror fiction.