Sunday 21st December 2014,
Comic Booked

Review: The Wake #5

Julien Loeper 11/23/2013 Reviews

Scott Snyder always manages to surprise me.

Whenever I think something of his has fallen into a formula and I feel like I’m going to be able to predict the ending, he comes up with something out of nowhere that is so left-field I can’t decide whether it’s genius or if it’s the biggest pull-out-of-nowhere plot device ever conceived.

I’m not exaggerating.

His endings either stick or don’t stick. This is both his biggest problem and his biggest strength (or at least one of them). Sometimes it comes out of nowhere and feels like the biggest pull (check the ending to Court of Owls – did the Bruce’s brother/not brother thing actually have anything to do with the story at all?) or it feels emotionally satisfying and leaves me waiting for the next story (Any American Vampire arc ever.). Therefore I can’t decide if I like the ambiguous endings or not. We’re not exactly shown what happens, but it’s implied, and that should be satisfying enough, but sometimes I can’t get no satisfaction[1].

Where this leaves The Wake #5 is a cross between emotionally satisfying and a what-the-hell-just-happened kind of moment. The way it ended was dark and scary and kind of subdued, but what’s implied (we’re never outright shown how the world ends) is just completely bonkers yet absolutely understandable. I’m sure Sean Murphy loved drawing this. A mostly black page with only a flickering of figures and light is so brilliantly subtle and understated yet you can feel its weight crashing upon you. Underwater horror has never looked grittier.

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I’m in love with the way this book looks. Murphy manages to draw the hell out of Snyder’s script, and really understands what undersea horror should look like. This is Creature from the Black Lagoon on steroids. The writing combined with the art makes for punk rock revivalism (in comics) that doesn’t miss the point of the punk aesthetic in the first place.

Snyder and Murphy do not play it safe, and it’s all the better for it. They make you care about the characters for four issues and then they take away everything you loved about the book and run it through the ringer and back, with only remnants of what you once knew still remaining. That takes some serious cojones. This isn’t the average horror story.

This all ties back to the ending. It’s not the true ending of the book more so it is the true ending of the first half. Whereas the first half of The Wake is very subdued and subtle in its approach to horror, the ending gives us a taste of things to come by ratcheting up the tension and scale of the drama to apocalyptic-wasteland-levels. So where does this leave my opinion of the book? Somewhere in between. It feels like a bit of a pull ending but it’s executed so perfectly that it doesn’t even matter what happened. It’s in the execution of the concept, not the concept itself.

If the ending is any indication, consider me on board for the second half of The Wake, in February 2014.


[1] The Rolling Stones were probably the worst of the British invasion bands. The Who and The Kinks were always the superior choices of listening. I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention the Yardbirds.

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A whole ton of useless pop culture knowledge and more, sometimes organized into semi-coherent sentences.

  1. @ColumbusComics 11/23/2013 at 10:47 pm

    Not a bad review. Stick to comics though. We don't need to hear your amateur commentary on music. Bashing the Stones only makes you stupid.

  2. Škorpijon Luna 11/24/2013 at 12:48 am

    The Who? The Kinks? Really? Herman's Hermits for the win man! You need a band with some tunes ya know? "Mrs Brown you've got a lovely daughter"….. that shit goes straight to the radio!

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