Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy’s “The Wake” #2 takes mythology and evolution and turns everything on it’s ear to build the basis of this fascinating horror tale spanning millions of years. Snyder’s gift with giving a terrifying horror bent to very smart stories and Murphy’s ability to draw anything imagined come together magnificently in this must-read series.
Snyder’s story jumps back and forth in time — everything from 5.1 million years ago to show us a “2001: A Space Odyssey”-esque version of early man (dark, fascinating and ties directly to the larger narrative) to the “200 years ago” heroine trying to uncover a mystery lying deep in the underwater station, to the actual present — a world enveloped by water. At the end of this issue, when we return to the book’s present tense (that feels like/is the future), I confess I had almost forgotten that was where we had actually begun in the first issue. Being taken by surprise like that was reminder of how layered and complex the storytelling is. It’s bold and aggressive work that demands a lot from its readers, which isn’t a bad thing.
Snyder effortlessly merges heroine Dr. Archer and her work in Cetology, with personal things like traumatic events from her past, to massive questions about the evolution of mankind, to a “current” scientific mystery. All of these elements built to a fascinating tapestry that is at once both intimate and epic.
Murphy’s artwork is stunning no matter what subject matter he tackles. He’s made himself at home in all kinds of stories over the last few years from “Joe the Barbarian” to “Punk Rock Jesus,” and even superhero stories like “Superman and Batman” — but I have to admit that his work on “The Wake” feels like the most natural fit yet. Murphy moves fluidly from primitive man fighting for his life against prehistoric (read: huge!) sharks to modern day science labs (albeit underwater ones) with an ease that is unheard of. All of it is tinged with a realism and beauty that astounds. His characters act and move so believably — so does his magnificently designed sci-fi “merman,” who feels real and terrible all at once. Therein lies the horror that Snyder and Murphy are so masterful at, because the Merman is all the more frightening for his realism.
And what would Murphy do without Matt Hollingsworth’s evocative and pitch perfect color palette? Hollingsworth’s attention to light and its effect on a scene — whether it be the sickly green hue of the underwater lab or the dark blues of a night at sea — are second to none. He takes Murphy’s stunning illustrations and dials them all the way up, without ever overpowering or trying to outshine what everyone else is doing. It’s a perfect example of story first and all creators working in sync to achieve one spectacular goal.
The layers and depth in Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy’s “The Wake” both conceptually and visually are stunning. As a reader, I feel grateful that this is a maxi-series (ten issues) as all of that page time is needed to get to all the mysteries and complexities that these creators have in mind. At the same time, the book is so good that the greedy reader in me wishes “The Wake” was an ongoing, even though comics with definitive ends have proven to be superior over time. “The Wake” is definitely positioned to be one of those superior tales.