Scott Snyder needs no introduction, as he is pretty much the single fresh stalwart keeping DC afloat. In contrast, Image comics are continually catching the waves with great ideas and renowned creative teams. The Wake certainly fits that bill, as together with Snyder is the incredible Sean Murphy, who recently stirred the waters with the book Punk Rock Jesus. His pencils are so intricate that he seems to draw every facial detail but still makes the characters look clean and expressive. This particular book is coloured by the legendary Matt Hollingsworth who is well known for his work on Brubaker’s Captain America and, of course, Hawkeye. The Wake is a book about an expert crew on a submarine investigating a new kind of sea life, one that looks like a vampire whale but is intelligent. Our female lead is an estranged marine biologist who is an expert on sea life communication, and she has just translated the clicks and squeals of the loneliest whale in the world.
Scott Snyder has already built his reputation for storytelling with his Batman and American Vampire titles. Though I find him overly wordy with his narrative, it is always engrossing and satisfying. He is a master at the subtle clue dropping and the big reveal. This book has been teasing us since its inception and only now are we beginning to find out the truth. Though his work can be exposition heavy, he certainly allows Murphy room to manoeuvre with this title. His art is so brilliantly clear that we instantly recognise each character without any difficulty. The amount of detail that goes into their facial features, hairstyles and clothing is very impressive, especially their survival gear. Sean depicts quite the terrifying monster, with horrid fangs, evil eyes and swift violent movement. There are a couple of lovely scenes involving hallucinations, which provide light relief from the dark and wet claustrophobic spaces. The action sequences are intense and disturbing with excellent posturing and colour. Hollingsworth has a very difficult challenge because the whole comic is set in a dark and wet underwater environment. For the most it is impressively done, as all characters have a blue hue to them and partly shaded but he manages to maintain visibility with the sensation of low light. There are moments where skin colour seems to be a little too pink or dark, but this appears to be more for effect against the darker background, as opposed to maintaining realism. It is an exceptional task to stop this comic from appearing murky and poorly visible, but Matt and Sean have worked together excellently to deliver terror and hostility.
The original inception of the story involved three timelines, all seemingly related. This book makes little mention of one of them and as exciting as the idea may be, I feel it may just be there for additional background exposition. It certainly does not appear to be an intertwining timeline narrative. Despite that the story is exciting and compelling, and very well expressed. It is far from an original tale as it resembles a classic trope; scientific expedition to an unknown location in search of the unknown, coming across destruction and a previously undiscovered life form. The characters play classic roles with Lee Archer playing more the Noomi Rapace character in Prometheus rather than Sigourney Weaver from Alien. We also have the evil organisation conspirator, the dishonourable nemesis, and even the violent idiot who just wants to shoot everything. However that cannot be allowed to take away from the sheer quality of the comic, as the story, art and colouring is excellent. The ballad of the lonely whale is a lovely and touching story delivering suspense and empathy for our killer whale.
“I’d like to raise my hand to object, but you know, seeing as it’s bitten half-off, I suppose I’ll have to abstain.”