Pick of the Week #4 – 3/26/14 – The Wake #7 (Snyder, Murphy, Hollingsworth/Vertigo) – 10 out of 10
I’ve made a grave mistake. Up until this week, I’d neglected issues 5-7 of The Wake because my to-read pile is ever-growing and this one slipped away. Looking at my massive pile, I decided to start working through issues that had backed up in the last few months. So, I started from issue #1 of The Wake and read through the series so far and did it in one sitting, without doing anything else in the interim. Consider my grave mistake righted.
This series is beyond incredible. My roommate warned me that issue #5 was a game-changer, and she couldn’t have been more correct. The first half of the series depicted the story of a band of experts in the deep, dark, scary-as-hell ocean as they encountered an ancient species designed solely to induce nightmares. I found myself thinking, this is great, this series should never end. I love these characters, I love this plot…and then, issue #5 happened and suddenly there’s a new world and new characters and I didn’t even care. Normally, plots like this, that trade in a cast of characters you’ve just started to really grow with, would have me sputtering obscenity because I get attached very easily. But Snyder’s seamless story-telling made this transition perfectly fine in my book, even when I thought that there was no way these characters would return. Well, cue issue #6 and #7.
After using “the ear” to hear a transmission supposedly recorded by Lee Archer, our heroine thought dead (especially since this is, you know, 200 years later), Leeward, our new heroine extraordinaire is taken captive by the government a-holes who apparently have everything to gain from the earth’s flooding. This dystopian futuristic world brings us to the surface of the enlarged ocean – and the surface of the “new” story – as we learn just how bad things have gotten since the mer-creature takeover. Snyder has managed to craft an absolutely beautiful world, filled with depth and detail that would normally take a whole arc to flesh out. His writing is so smooth, so thoughtful, so emotional, this transition two centuries later feels natural.
Focusing now on issue #7 only, it took only one page to realize this would have to be the pick this week. Part of that was due to Murphy’s art, which I’ll get to shortly. But the big part was that Snyder tells yet another beautiful story within a story in the flashback of Leeward’s early years. The parallels with Lee’s flashback from earlier issues were so tragically apparent, my heart started racing a little in anticipation for the bad on the horizon. This first act of the issue was so wonderfully done and the rest of the book did not disappoint. Snyder writes the action sequences just as beautifully as the more introspective and science-y stuff, and the change of pace was perfectly timed. However, the truly spine-tingling moment came in the belly of the beast itself. That last page (oh please don’t kill Dash!) was absolutely brilliant. Just when I think there’s no way Snyder could get any better, he finds a way to outdo himself in a gigantic fashion. Literally.
While the ideas and plot progression are the best in comic book story-telling I’ve seen, the art really pushes this book to places unparalleled by any book out there right now (at least that I’m currently reading). Murphy (with colors by Hollingsworth) brings this aquatic tale to life on every page, with every detail and every bit of water he inks. Going back to that first page and the flashback scene, Murphy drew a young Leeward that I was instantly smitten with. From the gigantic blue eyes to the adorable dolphin hat, Murphy made this character instantly like-able. In fact, he has a very special talent, overall, in adding features to characters that give that instant cue of emotion, whether it be admiration, dislike, or whatever. If he wants you to feel it, you will. Including the absolutely unsettling feeling I get every time I see one of those mer-creatures. Every page they splash onto is more terrifying than the next, every scene they are in fills me with a dread I haven’t quite felt with any other book so far. Also, damn those colors are great. Hollingsworth was a perfect choice for the coloring for this series, really making the art pop and convey the tone for the reader on every page.
Seven issues in and I feel like I just ran a mind-marathon reading them all. The story is genius, and it’s clear that Snyder and Murphy did a LOT of research for this (which is especially incredible considering how many other projects Snyder is working on, and doing an amazing job with). The time and effort put into every aspect of this book make it something legendary, and I am holding my breath for the plunge into that next issue. Runner-Up of the Week for 3/26/14 – Injustice #3 (Taylor, Miller, Redondo, Hugonnard-Bert/DC) – 9 out of 10
Injustice has been an emotionally thoughtful series, capable of evoking the urge to simultaneously punch holes in things and cry. With Superman still being a Superjerk (sorry, I’m coming off a hate-on-Superman binge after reading Justice League 3000 #4, chock full of punchable faces), Taylor continues to deliver a story that is as action-packed as it is heart-warming. This issue, we begin with a sad story about baby Kal-El, meant to humanize his actions and devotion to preventing a Krytpon-like Earth-tastrophe. As usual, everything Taylor writes feels epic in that special way that feels like small-scale explosions.Moving quickly between Superman and the Guardians, he earns a few chuckles spread throughout the morality stand-off, particularly in the scene involving Ganthet and lurker-status creeping. The issue closes with a monumental (sort-of) reveal between Batgirl and Gordon, and it’s one for the books, you know, those books that instantly call forth tears. Curse you, Taylor. Curse you.
The art in the first half of this issue was decent. Nothing amazing, but nothing horrible. Baby Kal was a little creepy looking sometimes, in that baby adult kind of way, but overall it was strong, clean, and got the point across. The art in the latter half of the issue was much better eye candy. The space scenes were damn gorgeous. I’ll take any cosmic-scape that spends time making stars shine on a colorful backdrop. Similarly, Gotham, the rain, the looming dread…the art captured the mood in an intense way, really driving home the tone of the writing. And that tone? Read it and weep.