The Wake #6 begins “Part 2” of the 10-issue mini-series by Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy. Last year, in the first issue, we were treated to a small glimpse of a watery-filled future, before going back in time for the first five issues to illustrate how the future came to be.
In those first five issues, The Wake served as a horror story, deftly illustrating the claustrophobic nature of being trapped at the bottom of the ocean, and exploring mankind’s fears of the unknown through the use of some pseudo-Cthulhuoid creatures. That deep sea horror story hit the right notes on every level, scaring the reader but also teasing at what was to come. How long have those creatures been living down in the depths of the ocean, and what is going to happen once they decide to take their revenge on the surface world? Snyder and Murphy created a whole culture behind the creatures which begs to be explored. But they also showed us that mankind’s worst enemy, when confronted with such horrors, is really himself.
It’s that last bit that gets more fully developed in this issue, which jumps the timeline up 200 years into the future to show the world that has resulted from the invasion of the sea creatures. Entire coastlines have been wiped out, and the United States has been changed into “the 13 territories,” each trying to protect what little fresh water remains.
The story is told through the main character of Leeward, the young woman glimpsed briefly in the “prologue” section of the first issue. As presented by Snyder and Murphy, Leeward is tough and fearless with a bit of a scoundrel side to her. She’s learned to adapt to this new water-logged world and how to exploit it to get what she needs. Leeward is a loner-type, but so far appears to have garnered the respect of the town in which she lives. She’s also got a serious curiosity streak, and it’s by virtue of that character trait that we learn more about her world.
The world-building in this one issue is spectacular, both from a written and artistic standpoint. As with the previous issues of the series, Murphy’s almost claustrophobic layouts juxtaposed by the vastness of the oceanic environment really helped to create a creepy sense of slowly building horror, coupled with the dark, but still highly defined, color palette of Matt Hollingsworth. In this new story arc, we get more wide open panels and brighter colors to help us make the transition of the surface world. It’s a wonderful switch that’s expertly handled by the creative team.
However, not all is bright, shiny, and happy in this new world above. There’s a dark secret being guarded by those in power, the remnants of the American government, and it’s Leeward’s mission of discovering the reason behind the cover-up that leads to the conflict in the story. Interestingly, the government powers, particularly in the form of Governess Vivienne, are somewhat reminiscent of the character of Antonia Levay in East of West. Yes, corrupt politicians keeping secrets is really nothing new in fiction (or reality, for that matter), but in The Wake we are teased with just the barest hint of exactly what the Governess is trying to keep the rest of the world from finding out, and that creates a sense of urgency to this issue. We want to know more. What is Leeward looking for? Why is the Governess so intent on keeping it covered up? And what is that last panel all about?
Yes, there’s the mother of all surprise panels at the end of this issue, and while it was subtly woven throughout the entire plot of the issue, it was still a bit of a shock when it happened. If you’ve been following the series, you’ll definitely be curious as to how it will be resolved in next month’s issue.