It’s finally here – after ten months of living in Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy’s strange futuristic oceanic world, they serve up a finale that’s truly grander in scope than any reader could have hoped for.
Over the past ten issues we’ve been treated to a Cthulhu-esque underwater horror story with elements of the classic 1979 Alien film thrown in, and then catapulted two hundred years into a post-apocalyptic world where most of the land has sunk beneath the waves and the remnants of humanity fight amongst themselves for what little fresh water remains. While I thoroughly enjoyed the horror elements of the first story arc, combined with Murphy’s spectacularly brilliant claustrophobic panel layouts and Hollingsworth’s cunning “color-coded” palette, it was the second arc with all of the world-building, character development, and little hints at the nature of the “mers” that took this series from simply clever to an Eisner Award Winner.
In issue 10, Snyder and Murphy shoot right past the future world they’ve been working on, and deliver a completely unexpected universe-spanning explanation for the history of the mers and their interaction with humanity. The story really delves into what it means to be human and even into some of our physiology, including certain reflexes we have that most of us probably never give a second thought. This is deep stuff (pardon the pun) that actually, for me, shares some elements with an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation called “The Chase.”
This leads us to the title of the entire series. While the nautical definition of “wake” has always been an obvious one in the context of the story, as readers we have subtly also been subjected to another use of the term, referring to keeping watch or vigil over something (typically a body before burial). It’s an ingenious double entendre by the creators, but one on which I don’t wish to dwell for fear of giving too much of the story away.
Sean Murphy continues to show off exactly why he was the perfect fit for this book. In this one issue alone he’s required to illustrate various historical phases of humankind along with futuristic technological equipment, dozens of different styles of clothing, weapons and armor, historical scenes, and of course water…all that water. In this last issue, he tops all that off with a brilliant vertical two-page spread that also really showcases that unique and fun color coding by Hollingsworth.
Like many mini-series, The Wake might be better off read in collected format. There is a lot to digest here, and after having read this last issue, it begs for a second reading to glean more depth from the storytelling. However, I suspect this isn’t the last time we’ll be visiting Snyder and Murphy’s futuristic world of The Wake. Have a read for yourself, and after those last couple of pages, decide if you agree.