"Green Wake" is the strongest debut of 2011. It crafts a tale of emotion and murder against an ethereal backdrop of mystery and metaphor. This is a noir tale of a man investigating the strange new world around him while also trying to get to the truth at the heart of himself, perhaps at the heart of the human condition. To feel and to love mean only to eventually lose and to hate. Then you end up on the shores of Green Wake with blurry memories and the clothes on your back. There you remain.
The premise of this town is brilliantly executed through words and images. It’s a sprawling vista somewhere between Jeunet and Venice via Templesmith and completely without a time frame. Here, time stands still. The emotion you came with is the one you will be stuck with. Everyone is sad and alone and the funk of lost souls is oppressive. It’s a world where nothing happens because the people simply can no longer handle action or interaction. The inevitable punishments far outweigh the possible consequences.
Thus, things become confusing when a spate of brutal killings litter the landscape of this hollowed out town. Facts point to a resident girl, the quiet Ariel, being the guilty culprit. Morley Mack looks into the case and he is a man who only goes by what's presented in front of him. There’s no room for editorializing in this world, nothing is ever certain but what is true. Morley is a pragmatic man and through flashbacks we see he’s someone who had a heart, but its shattered pieces cut through reality and sent him to Green Wake. He fulfils a resident gumshoe role but only for want of something to do, which makes him an anomaly.
The pieces are all assembled in this debut issue. There appear to be little coincidences as Ariel’s previous lover washes up on the shores of Green Wake in time to join the investigation. Kurtis Wiebe isn’t trying to obfuscate too much, and that’s his genius. Everything is presented almost as a dare. We know who did it and where they are. The mystery is why. The whys and wherefores of this town are the tinder to build and sustain as well as being the flame to burn. There’s more than meets the eye, which will surely pay off later upon further reads of this dense issue.
If Rob Liefield was once the face and house style of Image then surely Riley Rossmo is that new pioneer for the independent publisher. His work on “Proof” and “Cowboy Ninja Viking” have made him synonymous with the publisher and his work on this title will show him as the great storyteller he is as well as being a visual dynamo. Rossmo creates a world here that makes every one of your senses react. As emotional as the story is, so are the pages. These characters slump and wonder and there are moments that will make you pause. This might be Rossmo’s greatest work to date.
“Green Wake” is David Cronenberg liberally adapting Dashiell Hammett. There’s a pulp heart beating beneath this murder mystery but it’s infused with a body horror that makes you wonder if your emotions are connected to your evolutionary journey. This is a comic that feels familiar like the sound of hard rain on a roof that might not hold. It offers you something special indeed, a razor sharp indictment of that fine line between fate and desire. The writing from Wiebe is absolutely pitch perfect and it couldn’t be matched to the art with more precision. This might just be a perfect mystery opening, and you absolutely need to buy this comic.