Friday, 29 November 2013

The Wake Part One Review (Scott Snyder, Sean Murphy)


Dr Lee Archer is a cetologist and a single mother who’s approached by a shady government agent to take part in a secret underwater operation to identify the source of a strange sound off the Alaskan coast. The sound belongs to what seems to be a mermaid – but mermaids aren’t real (or are they?) and this one looks and behaves far more monstrously than their fairy tale creations, as Archer and her team are about to discover.
This is the first Scott Snyder book since American Vampire that I’ve not completely loved partly because the characters are so two-dimensional and partly because the story just isn’t very interesting. Archer (just the name!) is your standard moral scientist-type – you know Bill Paxton in Twister? That kind. She even has an evil double who’s in bed with the government – you can almost hear the same dialogue, “they’re not in it for the science, man!”.
Agent Cruz is your standard issue man in black government type, who talks in a monotone, is very secretive, and of course turns out to be duplicitous, while there’s a bounty hunter character who feels like he’s stepped out of an 80s action movie, who’s here to hunt rare species ‘cos he’s a tough guy! All of the characters are highly unoriginal and boring, and aren’t helped by Sean Murphy’s art. If you’ve read Punk Rock Jesus, you’ll notice how similar Archer looks to Gwen and Agent Cruz to Thomas McKael – it’s like Murphy has a handful of character designs and has to keep reusing them.
Story-wise, it’s fairly ok up to a point and then it becomes repetitive. The fish monster predictably escapes because there’s no story otherwise, you’ve got humans trapped in limited space, a cat and mouse chase ensues, and then the ending happens. Reading several issues in a row which are basically just characters running from a monster is frankly boring and there’s little variety in what happens. Move from one part of the station to the next, repeat.
Snyder does throw in some interesting scenes now and then, showing us a dystopian Waterworld-esque Earth set 200 years in the future, before hurtling us back hundreds of thousands, and sometimes millions, of years back to the past, hinting at a much larger and mysterious story. I loved seeing these but unfortunately they are very brief snippets so most of the time you’re spent with a crew of unconvincing cardboard cut-outs running around. The good news is that the second part looks to be entirely set in the dystopian future with a new set of characters so I anticipate liking that book a lot more than I did this one.
Snyder’s writing in The Wake Part One isn’t especially exciting – he’s always had the propensity to throw in plot-relevant anecdotes into his stories though in The Wake they feel very heavy-handed and awkwardly placed. At one point in the middle of a chase, the characters pause and wait while Archer tells a story! Murphy’s art is fine and I think his fish monster designs are effectively scary but I’m still not as in love with his art as many others are. The Wake is definitely readable despite the script’s flaws and has some interesting story moments but it’s not nearly as good as other books Snyder’s writing at the moment like Batman and Superman Unchained for DC. The Wake Part One is like Aliens crossed with The Abyss but not nearly as good as either.

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