Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy’s “The Wake” continues its stellar run as issue #8 ups the stakes significantly, both from an emotional and plotting standpoint. Mysteries abound, but Snyder promises answers as he delves even deeper into this rich world.
With issue #8, Synder throws in a nice curveball by having his outliers immediately debunk Leeward’s signal until they hear the name Lee Archer. Though much of this issue is spent developing the outliers’ world and Captain Mary as a character — all of it good work — the real heart of the issue is in Leeward. By the end, she shows she’s more than happy to give up her life for this cause, so long as they seek out the signal and get to the bottom of it. Sacrificing her life to save the planet is a small price. Fortunately for all of us, she doesn’t have to pay that price, and we set the stage for the hunt for the signal and Governess Vivienne and her people likely giving chase.
Murphy and Matt Hollingsworth’s art continues to be an absolute visual feast. Murphy’s world building is imaginative and fluid, and perfectly conceived from architecture and creatures to fashion and atmosphere. Even though Murphy’s style is one of highly comprehensive details, he’s not afraid to let backgrounds drop out when the story calls for it. The result is a wonderful contrast between the supremely detailed and the starkly bare. It’s an aspect that lesser artists can’t seem to manage — always overloading panels, or ignoring backgrounds completely. Murphy has perfect balance on this score and it’s just one of the ways in which he gives “The Wake” so many layers and depth. Hollingsworth’s colors are full of smart details such as skin tones a bit orange from a hard life on the water. At the same time he presents a flexible palette that shifts beautifully with the location and light in a scene.
There are a few layouts that, perhaps because Murphy is pushing on storytelling boundaries — not a bad thing — are not as clear as they could be. The end particularly lacks clarity as it seems like Leeward is abandoned by the outliers and left tied up on the surface when their home is bombed, only to have them come back for her and find her somewhere else utterly unharmed. What happens is mostly understood thanks to Snyder’s writing, but from a storytelling point of view, it’s definitely confusing.
With another excellent issue under their belt, Snyder and Murphy’s “The Wake” continues to skirt that fine line between the magnificently epic and undeniably intimate with ease. The only regret is that it’s not an ongoing series, and that the end will come far too soon.