The Wake #1 by Scott Snyder & Sean Murphy

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<i>The Wake #1</i> by Scott Snyder & Sean Murphy

Writer: Scott Snyder
Writer: Sean Murphy
Publisher: DC
Release Date: May 29, 2013

The Wake may be the best ‘80s creature feature that never was. Much like he did in American Vampire and Severed, writer Scott Snyder dives deep into the nostalgia well (and the Arctic Ocean) to drum up a yarn brimming with escapism and otherworldly threats. Instead of revisiting the Roaring Twenties or Great Depression dioramas that tend to occupy his narratives — including his exceptional 2006 short story collection, Voodoo HeartThe Wake feels ripped straight from the Reagan Era, if only by osmosis. Mysterious Cold War bureaucracies, grotesque sci-fi fiends, and a strong female protagonist ($10 says she busts out some fly one-liners in a sweat-soaked grey tank top in the next five issues) all allude to some vintage cinema homage to works like The Abyss and The Thing. Though they’re not in the masthead, James Cameron, John Carpenter, John McTiernan, and even Steven Spielberg float above this comic like patron saints.

Dr. Lee Archer stars as a Cetological Vocalization Specialist (one who studies marine mammal songs) plucked from her research by the ominous Department of Homeland Security to investigate a new, alien tune heard in the depths of a clandestine oil drill platform. As with any investigation in which the big, bad government recruits pretty scientists, something fanged and dangerous lurks underneath the surface of the story. Snyder strategically lays out a compelling assortment of plot threads bound to weave and clash with one other in future issues. For example, Archer has planned for her distant son to visit her on the seas shortly. With all of the powder-keg potential of the scenario, you can expect a dose of familial melodrama as an inaccessible parent will finally be there for her child as he’s pursued by the creature from the arctic lagoon. It’s all juicy and cheesy and immaculately entertaining: an assortment of puzzle pieces waiting to assemble themselves.

As he proved on his sucker-punch series Punk Rock Jesus, Sean Murphy knows how to frame a story. Aside from his grounded, sketchy style (there’s a hint of Adam Kubert in there), the artist can render engulfing panoramas of wave-soaked post-apocalyptic cityscapes and ship interiors with personality and finesse. His versatility and flow is vast. And unlike Murphy’s previous project, his vistas now burst with color, and what color it is. Matt Hollingsworth casts The Wake in intoxicating, gentle gradients of blue and violet and everything in-between. A subtle film grain behind the spectrum reinforces the 35mm aesthetic that anchors the book.

The Wake #1 is more of an elaborate promise than a realized product, which is fine: few long-form stories confirm excellence in 25 pages. But with Snyder’s tight scripting and Murphy and Hollingsworth’s inspired scenery, it’s not too early to call The Wake a blockbuster in the making.