“The Wake” #9 by Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy brings Leeward and her shipmates to the source of the signal, which leads to a crisis of faith among the crew and also to an encounter that is equal parts predictable and impossible.
The second half of “The Wake,” anchored around Leeward hasn’t been as straightforward a story as the first half that featured Lee Archer. Lee’s story was a quest that turned into a cat-and-mouse. Leeward’s journey is a treasure hunt-style sailing quest for answers, but it hasn’t been as focused, and the world-building has been parceled out in patchier segments.
The threat Leeward faces is twofold: the gradual extinction of the human species and the machinations of the Governess. While both enlarge the stakes, they don’t have anything close to the tension of Lee’s underwater horror story. The extinction threat is too slow and nebulous, and the Governess’ motives are too shrouded at this point and she hasn’t gotten enough screentime to give readers more to latch onto.
The interactions Leeward has with other people have been lighter and more guided by the disclosure of information than sustained conversations. When the crew of the Argo threatens to mutiny in “The Wake” #9, it doesn’t have the dramatic impact that it should due to the reader’s low investment in individual characters that have been introduced so briefly. Even Leeward isn’t as fleshed out as Lee. “The Wake” #9 feels weak on the points of suspense and deeper characterization.
When “The Wake” #9 begins, months have passed since the events of the last issue. Snyder uses the device of a ship’s log to fill readers in about all that has been seen and done. The dialogue is breezy and natural enough to make it feel more natural than most information dumps. It succeeds in condensing the timeline and giving Murphy a chance to exercise his imagination in large almost full-page montages, but this abridgment also takes away from the immediacy of the action and cuts short the reader’s potential immersion in the centuries-later world. Leeward’s journey moves too fast to sink any hooks into the reader, but what occurs is interesting enough, and the action is epic and beautiful.
Murphy’s artwork shows a great use of chalky shadows in the tomb sequence, and the aircraft attack double page spread showcases his delicacy of his work and attention to background detail. The issue’s final scene brings a welcome return into the ocean deep. Holllingsworth’s color work has a fitting delicacy, but the whole issue seems be colored in a range blue and yellow tones, with highlights of red and lilac purple. The lack of complexity does a disservice to Murphy’s details.
The final page of “The Wake” #9 has a face-to-face that feels simultaneously inevitable and surprising. The second half of “The Wake” hasn’t been as strong as the first half, but it maintains mysterious and wondrous tone and atmosphere that Snyder and Murphy have established. It’s a bit too much story for five issues can handle, but the final leg of Leeward’s quest still expresses Snyder’s themes of the breadth and long reach of history, and of humankind renegotiating and again finding its place on earth.