The Wake

Scott Snyder, writer; Sean Murphy, artist

Vertigo

It starts with a mysterious call from the ocean depths, worrisome enough that a secret government operative recruits marine biologist Dr. Lee Archer to investigate. Having opposed a major government project, she is no friend of the government. But she reluctantly agrees, and finds herself in a secret underwater drilling station with a diverse group--and all of them seem to have been recruited with a different story. The drilling operation has captured a strange merman-like creature (the source of the call) which is incredibly fast, strong, and vicious Before the team has much time to examine the creature, the situation begins to escalate, and the story changes from mystery to horror.

All of which would make Part One a fairly typical underwater horror story like The Abyss, albeit with a sharply drawn cast of characters and an especially imaginative creature design. But at the very end Part Two is set up with a large scale catastrophe: a deluge that sinks the coastal cities worldwide in a single day.

The scene shifts 200 years into the future. The world has become a watery dystopia, with a fascist government that behaves more like a warlord, and an outlaw class called Outliers. Our heroine Leeward seeks an answer for the cause of the flood, and a way to save the world. She thinks she has found it when she hears a radio transmission from Lee Archer. Lots of action in this part, too, culminating in confrontation between the Outliers and a huge government force when they meet up at the source of the transmission.

Here's where the scope of the story changes, becoming even more epic than the action so far. Leeward meets Lee Archer herself, who the creatures have kept alive for 200 years. It turns out that they have known about the seeding of the world by an ancient race, keeping the secret  Which is where it all becomes a bit vague to me. Having found the space craft that was left behind, Lee and the other humans the mer-race had chosen take off, presumably to find the origin planet. It's all a bit Prometheus-like.

Leeward chooses to stay behind, which leaves her in the same waterlogged state as the rest of humanity. She is happy, but it's hard to see the result as "saving the world." Aren't things the same for everyone left behind?

Anyway, it's an exciting story, well told (even if the ending isn't completely convincing). I was expecting more originality in the plot. American Vampire, Snyder's other big horror project for Vertigo, is full of original ideas. It's far from being a standard vampire tale.

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While I'm criticizing Snyder's contribution, I should mention an issue I'm starting to have with Murphy's art. While I love the energy of it--and I previously mentioned the creative creature designs--I'm starting to feel like I've seen all of his faces. Lee and Leeward look very similar here, which one could argue was intentional. But they also look a lot like Gwen in Punk Rock Jesus, which makes me wonder if Murphy isn't using the same model for them. On the other hand, he also does some really imaginative work on the buildings and vehicles in the dystopian future of Part Two.

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