(DC Comics/Vertigo, 2013)
Review by Shawn Warner
WRITTEN BY: Scott Snyder
ARTWORK BY: Sean Murphy
The third issue of The Wake begins by hinting that this problem may have existed far longer than anyone thought, 3.8 billion years ago to be precise and on Mars to put an even finer point on it. However after the opening four panel sequence the rest of this issue is a high tension pressure cooker full of grizzly combat and electrifying action. It seems that the predatory mer-creature is capable of shooting streams of a hallucination inducing neurotoxin from glands located in its eye sacks. The first to fall victim to this potentially fatal feature is Dr. Lee Archer. She is attacked while believing that she is sitting in a tire swing in a big oak tree in the front yard of her old house then what appears to be her son approaches and engages her in a light-hearted moment of mother/son joking. Cruz, who appears to her as a talking cardinal perched in the same tree, warns her of the impending threat by shouting and jarring her back to reality just before he receives a vicious bite right between his neck and shoulder.
The rig has taken on so much water at this point that most of the crew is already in full scuba gear anticipating the inevitable moment when the entire set-up will be underwater. Lee splits from Cruz and the rest of the group who have decided to try to tie off a section of the rig at the bay junction in favor of warning Bob, a crew member disliked by everyone including Lee herself but because of her altruistic nature she cannot knowingly stand by and let him drown. Unfortunately for Bob Lee is not the first to reach him. The mer-creature’s neurotoxin causes Bob to perceive it as Lee but the real Dr. Archer arrives just in time to look on in shock as the aquatic killer tears Bob’s arm off at the elbow then sinks its sharp, dagger-like teeth into the soft tender skin of his throat. Much to the crew’s vexation, the creature’s insatiable killing spree has only just begun. Meeks is the next to meet his demise before the surviving crew members make their way to the dock and the sub that awaits them there.
At this point Dr. Archer explains the mystery of the 52 hertz whale to the crew. She tells them that most whales communicate at between 15 to 20 hertz but in 1989 a Navy project picked up a whale call at 52 hertz, a total anomaly and what made it even stranger was the fact that it was only one whale talking to itself over and over, in a language no other whale speaks. Cetologists like Dr. Archer dubbed it “The loneliest whale in the world”. Now she believes that this whale was merely imitating something it heard, something that she has now identified as a conversation, a series of calls and responses. The terrifying reality of which has only just dawned on her. This is the language of the creature and it is waiting for a massive response to its most recent call, a response that will bring thousands of these savage killers.
Snyder has created a suffocating environment in which to stage The Wake. It’s claustrophobic in the sense that it is enclosed and restrictive yet it is vast in the sense that this creature could be hiding anywhere. The tension and anxiety this creates is almost unbearable but in the most exciting and suspenseful way, like riding a rollercoaster with your eyes closed, you don’t know where or when the big drops or loops are coming but you know they are and you can’t wait. I love this kind of tightly coiled narrative it reminds me of Alien and Aliens, just add water (I know that was a bad one). The action takes place like flashes of lightening, fast and brutal. The pace is brisk and is moved along very nicely by Snyder’s use of Dr. Archer as narrator but it is his excellent dialog and characterization that make this such a satisfying and thoroughly enjoyable, engrossing read. The characters pull you into this underwater world full of peril and the unknown. There has been so much happen thus far that I find it hard to believe we are only 3 issues into this 10 issue story. Snyder has really packed each issue with action but not only that he has progressed the plot without allowing the fundamentals of character to suffer for it. Scott Snyder is a writer who truly uses words surgically with precision and accuracy.
Visually The Wake is richly detailed and evocative of Bladerunner in its dark tone. Sean Murphy’s art is the perfect complement to Snyder’s script. He is so proficient at capturing the atmosphere of cold steel and salt water; the characters exude anxiety and panic through Murphy’s impassioned facial expressions. Matt Hollingsworth does an excellent job coloring the world of The Wake. His use of tints to give everything an underwater feel is so effective. This is truly one of the best looking books on the racks this week as well as being in my top three all around books of the week. I enthusiastically suggest adding this book to your pull list. Heck let’s just make this easy, if you see the name Scott Snyder on the cover pick it up. I bet you like what you read. The Wake #3 gets a frightful 4.5 out of 5 from me for its fantastic dialog, pulse-pounding plot and amazing artwork. So until next time, see you at the comic book store.
Follow Shawn Warner on Twitter: @shawnwarner629