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More recently, I’ve been looking for scarier, darker graphic novels to read. I purchased this one in the hope that it would satisfy my craving. Unfortunately, it was a pretty big disappointment.
The Wake is a 10-issue comic — you can purchase them all bundled together as a 256 page graphic novel to make this a true Start to Finish — about underwater, vicious mermen: almost a sort of underwater zombie. Dr. Lee Archer, a cetologist (a marine specialist on whales), is taken to a secret underground rig with other specialists by the Department of Homeland Security. DHS wants some help in understanding what exactly the underwater creature they have captured is. But the creature gets out of entrapment and it’s not alone.
It starts out strong with a female lead, Dr. Lee Archer, who I really enjoyed as a character. We get a glimpse of her back story with some conversations with her son and her father. She is the main focus for issues 1-5. Issues 6-10 switch to a different female lead, Leeward, who is also a strong character — she’s independent, able to protect herself, and similar to Lee in many ways. Other than that, all of the smaller characters kind of get lost… one or two stick out, but overall their stories and personalities aren’t very intriguing. Plus, there just isn’t enough time to build up any of the smaller characters here. If you enjoy having that connection with the characters and leaving a story with memorable personalities, this isn’t the graphic novel for you.
The biggest issue with this graphic novel is everything it tries to accomplish in just 10-issues. It felt so rushed while I was reading it. I can appreciate fast-paced reading, but this got pretty atrocious. Especially toward the end, where there was just too much to tie up and Snyder attempted to do it in a couple pages. The ending wasn’t really an ending, which can be okay sometimes… but to me, this was too confusing. Maybe I need to reread it but I feel like I shouldn’t have to.
There were a few things I can praise about the graphic novel. It did in fact fulfill the thriller-horror theme I was looking for. Especially in the first half. It definitely reads like a horror story in the first couple of chapters and has the art to back it up.
The art truly was incredible (see above for a couple examples). If you buy the entire hardcover version, there are a few pages in the back where you can see sketches of Dr. Archer, Leeward, Cruz, and the creature in multiple versions that Sean Murphy had drawn out. The creature went through 15 different sketches before they decided on one. The cover art for each chapter is poster-worthy. Everything is so detailed throughout – the different ships, planes, submarines, and other vehicles must have had a ton of time spent on them.
One of my favorite elements of this graphic novel is actually an animal character; Leeward has a sonic dolphin, Dash, who she rides around. Who wouldn’t want a trained dolphin as a best friend/method of transportation/life saver?! But as awesome as that is, it can’t save the poorly executed second half.
To conclude: I expected a lot out of The Wake and it just didn’t deliver. The idea of this story was originally interesting, it was set up well in the first half, the second half had the right elements to make it work, but it just didn’t follow through. The ending left me puzzled and unsatisfied. The characters were mostly boring and undistinguished. The human villains were lost with too little time spent on them.
This is like the Lost of graphic novels honestly. I’m sure there are people out there who loved it in it’s entirety, but for me, the beginning started out with a strong premise, and the ending was a lackluster, confusing, rushed mess that left me with a few too many questions.
Let me know what you thought about The Wake or other Scott Snyder comics! Is this his worst? Let us know your thoughts.
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