THE WAKE #6
Written by Scott Snyder
Art by Sean Murphy
Published by DC Comics/Vertigo
Release Date: February 26, 2014
At the end of issue #5, Scott Snyder promised us a whole new world for part 2 of The Wake. He wasn’t lying – we definitely got one. A triumph of sci-fi world-building, The Wake #6 combines a unique, beautiful aesthetic with the same undercurrent of dread that permeated part 1. Something is rotten in the soggy territories, and all we can do is accompany Leeward on her journey to find out what.
Let’s start with Leeward herself. What a delight to see a female protagonist who isn’t repeatedly singled out as female. Snyder writes Leeward like a character first, which you wouldn’t think would be that hard, but it seems a lot of mainstream comics struggle with it. Best of all, she’s got fully realized personality defects and flaws. She seems very capable and independent, yes, but also, she’s kind of an asshole and a drug dealer. I’m not sure how much of her pivotal discovery came from a drive to save humanity or a personal retro-tech fetish. Also in the awesome column: her whip is a tricked-out dolphin attached to a hang glider. Between the gadgets, the attitude problem and the sweet ride, I’m declaring Leeward the official water-world dystopia Batman.
Beyond Leeward, the entire universe of The Wake: Act 2 is just as exciting. There’s a new colloquial language, there’s new geography (bless Snyder and Murphy for those maps – I love me some maps – and bonus points for that Skinner Airlines easter egg), there’s a new system of government, and a new kind of society. It’s all such a leap from where we were in issue 5, but it’s not quite a chasm. You can see where this world came from the one we left. My favorite new character (aside from Leeward of course) is The Governess aka “Viv.” The juxtaposition of sweet old lady and ruthless political leader is endlessly fascinating, and I cannot wait to find out more about what she knows and why she isn’t telling. That big mystery is what has me hooked all over again. What exactly do the folks in power stand to lose if the people at large find out what they know? (I’ve been watching a lot of House of Cards so I *might* have power politics on the brain.)
I’ve spent 2-3 days struggling with how to describe the art in this book, because eventually you run out of words and when I get too excited I forget the words I already know. Basically, if Sean Murphy’s work was a corporeal, sentient being, I would court it, woo it, and marry it. The dirty, worn-out feel of the “New World” is enhanced by all the weird sci-fi technology; it’s pretty much like how Endor got way cooler once the AT-STs and speeder bikes showed up (people even live Ewok Village style!) Murphy’s gift for drawing machines and designing tech is just as pronounced as the personality he gives his characters through looks and stances. I’m thinking of those sorrowful final panels of Lee Archer in #5, and I think it’s those combinations of small moments and big ideas is what makes Murphy so exceptional.
The character designs are great, three in particular. First, The General, who looks like a Punk Rock Jesus version of The Comedian from Watchmen. Second, Governess Viv, the sweet little murder grandma with artificial gill-type things. Third, and best, Leeward, who in addition to being gorgeous and sleek looks like she could be part mer-monster herself. Her color palate is an awesome assortment of aquatic blues and greens, which reminds me to say hats off to colorist Matt Hollingsworth for continuing to make this book the most stunning thing on the shelves.
I’m really looking forward to where this is going next; I’m hoping that Act 1 was The Creature from the Black Lagoon and Act 2 is Aliens. Obviously, Leeward is Sigourney Weaver. The big questions remaining: What did Dr. Archer know? When was that message recorded (could anyone possibly actually survive down there)? Why don’t the Gov and the Arm want people to hear it? How badass was it when she ripped its head off?? I should probably take a time out before I get too excited and start looking on eBay for a pet dolphin. I don’t think my tub is big enough.
The Verdict: 10/10