After finishing the first issue of Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy’s new Vertigo miniseries The Wake, all I can say is…WOW.
To say that fans are excited for The Wake, the new series by New York Times best-selling writer Scott Snyder and acclaimed artist Sean Murphy, is a massive understatement. The 10 issue miniseries, first announced back at New York Comic Con in October, garnered a great deal of interest due to the intriguing plot details and superstar creative team. Details have been scarce since its initial announcement, however, and fans waited months without so much as a peep about the title. But in late April the hype started to pick up again. And finally, after months of waiting, it’s here. And it is worth it.
The story focuses on Lee Archer, a gifted Cytologist shunned by her peers for some mistake she made in the past. Whilst going about her daily routine, Archer is approached by an agent from Homeland Security, and is quickly whisked off to the artic to join a team studying a dark secret discovered at the bottom of the ocean. Being the first issue, much of the narrative content is spent introducing characters and setting up the world the story takes place in. Snyder’s character work is excellent. Archer is instantly relatable, and as the plot progresses we slowly get to know exactly who she is and what motivates her. Snyder also does a great job generating anticipation and intrigue in regards to the true purpose of their mission. As the story progresses, we slowly learn that all as not as it seems aboard the research facility, and that intrigue continues to mount right to the end of the issue. Additionally, the few pages that bookend the issue do a great job showing an expansive time frame, creating a much larger scope for the underlying story the series is building towards. Sure it’s a bit of a tease, but it’s the first issue—that’s what it’s supposed to do. The Wake #1 grabs your attention and leaves you wanting more.
My favourite part of this issue, however, has to be the art. While I’m not particularly familiar with the work of artist Sean Murphy, this issue alone has made him one of my favourite artists in the industry. If I had to use one phrase to sum up the style of the art in The Wake, it’d have to be “old school.” Murphy knows how to tell a story with his art, and succeeds in conveying everything from plot to tone to emotional content in a single panel. Subsequently, he also knows when it’s time to get out of the way, giving ample room for the story to breathe without overwhelming readers with his stark imagery.
When it’s time to amaze you, however, he doesn’t hold anything back. Most comic book art these days is all about looking clean, with bright colours, smooth lines, and as much detail as possible. The Wake bucks this trend, using a style reminiscent of many of the great comics from the 80’s such as V for Vendetta, Sandman, and Blade Runner. Almost every page is awe inspiring, bringing something totally unique from what came before. With each page, from a wave crashing into a city or a gentle encounter with a whale, you’ll find yourself wondering how Murphy could possibly top what’s on the spread in front of you. Then, when you turn the page, he defies your expectation all over again. Hard edges, clever use of shadows, and a unique blend of style and realism, Murphy’s work just isn’t something you see very often in comics these days.
If I had to make a single complaint about this issue it’s that the pages flew by too quickly, leaving me with the cruel task of waiting a whole month to see what happens next.
Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy are both highly respected creators, and have reaped a huge audience for their respective works. Given the amount of hype for a new collaboration from the two, it would have been easy for them to cash in some rehashed story that’s been told a hundred times before in comics. But that’s not like these two. Instead, they’ve crafted an intriguing new world with a sinister mystery lying beneath, all depicted through stunning art that warrants a purchase on its own. So far The Wake is off to a great start, and I can’t wait until the end of June to see where Lee Archer’s saga takes her next. Whether you’re fan of Scott Snyder, Sean Murphy or neither, this is a book you should definitely be reading.