After a brief hiatus, Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy’s creepy cool Vertigo series The Wake continues today with THE WAKE #6. Now, if you’re reading this post on DCComics.com (or even if you’ve come across it on VertigoComics.com), there’s a fair chance you haven’t been picking this one up. And that’s a shame because it’s amazing. Seriously, this is a series people are going to be talking a lot about moving forward.
Of course, considering it’s written by the man who gave us American Vampire and who has been knocking it out of the park on Batman for the past two years, that shouldn’t be a surprise. But that’s just about the ONLY thing that hasn’t been surprising about this comic. For a sci-fi/horror book, this tale asks some big questions and seems to span a considerable length of time (we’re talking millennia). There’s quite a lot we still don’t know about this sci-fi tale, however, here are a few things that we do…
Today’s new issue is a changing point.
Okay, we’re going to throw up a SPOILER ALERT right here because we’re about to reveal one of the comic’s coolest twists. Issues #1-#5 were set in the present day and largely focused on Dr. Lee Archer, a cetologist who was tapped by the Department of Homeland Security to investigate a new undersea life form, as well as a team of fellow specialists. The action took place almost entirely on an undersea rig, and the whole thing read like a good suspense tale, with the creatures one by one eliminating the team members as the survivors tried to escape from the rig. It was thrilling and tense—each issue couldn’t get here quickly enough—but it also seemed fairly straightforward. At least until the story would leap far ahead into the future or back into the past and show us a sequence that seemed completely out of context from what we were reading. Cavemen? Flooded cities? Giant asteroids hitting Mars?
They didn’t make a lot of sense, and to be honest, many of them are still a complete mystery. But issue #6 promises to start providing answers as the story leaps far into the future and switches its focus from Dr. Archer to Leeward, a scrappy scavenger living off on a partially submerged outpost in a ragtag future.
The cast and setting are broadening. Considerably.
While the first half of the story depended largely on a limited setting and cast (something that was absolutely necessary given the nature of that part of the story), with issue six, the story explodes into imaginative new areas. Instead of the dark, muddy corridors of the rig, we’re treated to bright, expansive pages set within various outposts and cities of this futuristic world.
Along with that, we meet an almost entirely new cast of characters, some good and some definitely less so. We’re also shown a map of what’s left of the United States, highlighting regions called the Sands and the Deadlands. Who knows if we’ll ever actually see these places, but it’s still an impressive bit of world building.
It’s hard to imagine a limited series changing so dramatically from one issue to another, going so far as to switch protagonists and possibly even story types. (Dr. Archer’s story was pure horror, while Leeward’s so far seems to be more post-apocalyptic adventure.) In fact, you might have to look back to Snyder’s other, more vampiric Vertigo series to find the last good example of this.
The one thing tying all of this together seems to be the “mers.”
While Snyder and Murphy gave us glimpses of Leeward and her world in The Wake’s first half, they weren’t all that we were shown. We’ve seen a primitive storyteller pick up a futuristic device and be seemingly—and painfully—blinded by it. We’ve seen what appears to be an apocalyptic asteroid slamming into Mars billions of years ago. We’ve seen a tribe of warriors 100,000 years in the past get blown away by a powerful weapon that’s clearly anachronistic. We don’t know what all of these elements add up to, but we do know that the one thing tying it all together seems to be the “mers,” the malevolent, intelligent life form unearthed by Dr. Archer and team. They seem to be present over a large swath of time, impacting humankind in various ways and through various stages of our development. Are they aliens from another world? Some sort of missing link in our own evolution? A superior species?
We don’t know. We don’t know what they want. We don’t know why they seem to be abundant in the past and future, but unheard of in the present day. We don’t know how they managed to get the better of the entire human race, or why some of them are monstrously larger than the rest. We don’t know how Snyder has managed to tie these frightening creatures to all of human development and work that into such a lofty, large-scale story. But we know we want to be there when we finally find all this out.
And there’s one more thing we know. If we were to ever see a creature even remotely resembling these things, we know what to do.