Friday, May 31, 2013

The Wake #1

Written by Scott Snyder
Art by Sean Murphy

I wasn't too sure how interested I was going to be in The Wake, a new Vertigo mini-series.  The comic's writer, Scott Snyder, has lost some of his appeal in my eyes recently, as his Batman series has not impressed me as much as it apparently has most of the DC fan base, and I found that, prior to its going on hiatus, his American Vampire was also becoming rather underwhelming and tired, which is a good way to describe Vertigo in general over the last couple of years.

The only reason why I preordered this book was because of Sean Murphy's art, especially coming off of his sublime Punk Rock Jesus (check out the nod to the Flak Jackets in this comic!).

Having read this, I'm very pleased that I did buy it.  This feels like the Snyder of early American Vampire, setting out an interesting and sweeping story, without getting too bogged down in details.  The story is book-ended by scenes set in distant times - the first few pages are set somewhere far into the future, at a time when cities are flooded by the oceans.  We meet a young woman and her dolphin or porpoise companion, and know they are looking for something, but we don't know what.  The book ends some hundred thousand years ago.

In between is the bulk of the comic, in a time that doesn't feel too far off from ours.  We are introduced to Lee Archer, a marine biologist who specializes in whale song.  We quickly learn that she is divorced, does not have custody of her son, and at some point got herself in trouble with the NOAA, a government agency.  A representative of the Department of Homeland Security shows up, and plays her a tape of a strange whale song, convincing her to accompany him to a remote part of Alaska.  When she gets there, she learns that she is expected to work with a team, and that nothing is what she expected.

There are high-tech sea-floor oil platforms, specialized subs, and a creature that is not a whale to contend with, as well as a former rival.  The set up runs very smoothly, and while this has elements of movies like The Abyss, and comics like The Vault, there is more than enough to keep my interest, especially given Murphy's wonderful artwork.

Finishing this comic, I felt that I'd been uncharitable in my assessment of its prospects, and I'm happy to have been wrong.  I desperately wish that Vertigo could regain its place as a viable and respectable imprint at DC, and books like this are a step in the right direction.

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