The Wake #6 by Scott Snyder & Sean Murphy
Snyder and Murphy’s Vertigo series has been strong since the start, but issue five really upped the ante. Readers, myself included, had assumed the focus would remain on Dr Lee Archer as she and her fellow researchers attempted to out-wit monstrous sea creatures. Only, that plot point turned out to be a feint. The creatures (aka mers) were not mindlessly hunting food or protecting their territory—in fact, they wished to expand upon it. As Lee listened helpless over a splintering radio connection, the creatures churned the waters, flooded than lands and took back dominion of the Earth for themselves. In addition, we discovered that going forward the series would not deal with the immediate aftermath of this catastrophe but jump ahead 200 years. It was a brilliant twist, which left the narrative open to continue in any number of directions. Picking up this book yesterday, I did not know what to expect next, except that it would be good.
Snyder starts the reader off in familiar surroundings. A young woman is thrashing around in the water, as mers rush towards her. As they near though, the woman (Leeward, our heroine) cripples them with a sonic pulse. It would seem that she is the confident hunter, they are the prey. Then the reader turns the page to an image of Leeward soaring through the sky, her air glider held aloft by the propulsion of her dolphin. Behind her towers evidence of both wreckage and survival. It is a new world.
Murphy’s art continues to shine throughout this issue, however, it is worth noting the change of palate. The first five issues were dominated by shadows and dark hues, exactly what you would expect from a horror tale. However, despite humanity’s altered circumstances, the colors are brighter now. In the place of gloom, the sun shines brightly. Most remarkably, a sense of playfulness has snuck into the pages. For example, when Leeward lands her glider, not only does Murphy trace out her flight path, but he (or letterer Jared K Fletcher) adds a “WOOSH!” sound effect. This isn’t to say that everything’s fine now, far from it in fact. Over all, the story feels more sci-fi, less horror. It is a testament to the creators that they pull off this shift without any sense of disorientation.
Snyder and Murphy have clearly taken care in working through how humanity could rebuild society on a flooded planet. Their depiction of the settlement is full of windmills and pulleys, long lines of rice paddies. They have imagined how people would feed themselves, govern their communities and enforce order. Leeward’s tinkering with radio frequencies sends her into direct conflict with the authorities, yet at the same time provides a hope for defeating the mers. Finally, there is the suggestion of a link tying the two halves of this series even tighter together. One issue into this second phase of the narrative, I remain unsure of where Snyder is sailing his story, and I could not be happier about it.