I've deliberately avoided every piece of press I could about "The Wake," the new 10-part series from Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy. Not because I didn't want to read it -- the reverse is true -- but because I wanted to go into the experience "blind," not knowing the answers to any questions in advance. Now that I've read "The Wake" #1, I'm intrigued by this water-themed comic; I'm still not sure where it's going, but there's enough within the comic itself to make me want to find out.
The majority of "The Wake" #1 is set in (or around) the present day, introducing readers to Dr. Lee Archer, who specializes in the songs that whales, dolphins and other creatures create. When a man from DHS approaches her on a mission to help analyze a sound unlike anything she's heard, he promises that it won't take more than a little over a week, and that in return she'll not only get reinstated with NOAA, but they'll help her get custody of her son. Except, of course, the mission isn't quite what Archer's been told it is, and that's where things start to get interesting.
There's a lot of set-up in "The Wake" #1, but I think Snyder has it paced just right. The introduction of Dr. Lee Archer lets us see what her regular life is like before entering the expedition; just enough to get a taste, but not too much so that readers get bored. Once she agrees to join the mission, the other members of the team are quickly introduced, as well as their special skills that had them all on board. Every page or two feels like there's another small revelation being offered up; none of them are huge game-changers, but it's that subtle, incremental ramping up of information. Things aren't quite what they seem, and with each new tidbit we're starting to see not only that Archer's in deeper than she thought (both figuratively and literally), but that getting herself extricated might be impossible if she's changed her mind.
While most of this is present day, there are two chapters that bookend the first issue set in different time periods. The first, set 200 years in the future, is one that hints at disasters to come set in the rest of "The Wake." It's a familiar technique, one that's designed to pique the reader's interest even as it keeps things vague enough that you don't automatically know the conclusion of the main story. What I found more interesting, though, was the epilogue set far in the past. That, coupled with the surprise on the previous page, is where "The Wake" #1 veers into the realm of, "You have no idea what's going on, do you?" It's a good feeling, too; with ten issues, there needs to be a certain amount of mystery to keep interest high, and I feel like it hits that point just so.
Murphy's art is excellent as always, and he and colorist Matt Hollingsworth work well together. There are so many visual moments that could have been throwaway drawings that end up being anything but. A helicopter flying into base camp on Alaska's south slope could have been one of those ignored transition panels, but here it bursts to life: the spinning, blurred rotors; the gentle lines to carve the landscape into ridges and valleys; the haze in the sky as the sun sets; the way that the sky and the land is bursting into pinks and purples and reds as the light begins to fade. This is the sort of thing that Murphy and Hollingsworth are both so good at, taking something simple and making it extraordinary. And then you turn the page and we've got something just as well drawn -- the interior of a sub -- that is just about as different from the last drawing as you can get. The first was sparse and open, this is crammed full of detail of instruments and metal and technical items. And it's right around then that you remember that this is a master of his craft on display, and that nothing is taken for granted and everything is tackled with equal aplomb.
"The Wake" #1 is a strong first issue, and with the basic set-up concluded, it promises to get even stronger in the issues to come. Where is this going? With even the title not offering on a definitive clue (the ceremony connected to a funeral, the act of waking up, or the track left behind in water by a moving body?), it's fun to try and guess what's ahead. Based on strictly what Snyder and Murphy offer up here, though, I'm pretty sure it's going to be a lot of fun. Let the thrill-ride begin.