Another Scott Snyder joint!
We started off this month of creepy comics with an analysis of American Vampire, the series that launched writer Scott Snyder to horror superstardom. American Vampire has been known since its debut as one of Vertigo’s strongest horror titles in years, harkening back to the days when that famed imprint of DC was the go to place for both horror and independent comics. In the years since American Vampire’s debut, Snyder has stayed true to his roots. The overwhelming majority of his work is horror in some shape or form, including his creator owned work like the smash hit Wytches and the chilling Severed, as well as his mainstream work, like his run on Swamp Thing. Even his seminal Batman run was often as horrific as it was heroic. Today, we’re taking a look at another horror hit of Snyder’s that defies genre in a way that even I, a longtime reader of his, didn’t expect.
Let’s talk about The Wake.
The Wake is a 10-issue miniseries published by Image Comics, and written by Scott Snyder. Joining Snyder is an all-star team, featuring artist/co-creator Sean Murphy, colorist Matt Hollingsworth, and letterer Jared K. Fletcher. This is one of those series that is near impossible to break down into an elevator pitch, but here’s my best shot: Mermaids are real, they’re attacking everyone – kind of?
The series is split into two arcs, which follow two different leads in two different times. The first half follows the brilliant Lee Archer, a marine biologist tasked with studying a strange discovery in the depths of the ocean. The second half follows Leeward, a seafaring rebel in a post-apocalyptic future out to uncover a “way back.” Their stories overlap in surprising ways but are also two distinct stories. Lee Archer’s tale is one of horror survival, with a team of experts trapped on a submarine under attack by terrifying creatures that will be later dubbed “mers,” and the second half is post-apocalyptic urban fantasy/action-adventure – kind of like Mad Max with a lot more water.
Now, having read most of Scott Snyder’s work, I have two conflicting thoughts about The Wake. It’s his most mainstream work, but it’s also his most heady. Let’s break that down. The first half is straight horror, but the second is a lot broader. There are pirates who make ships out of giant mers, evil government officials who give creepy speeches, bombastic action sequences, and major twists… all of which make this feel like a summer blockbuster. That is, until these two stories collide, and we learn a deep, hidden truth about the nature of the mers. Played together, these two seemingly incongruous halves create a complex tapestry about war, alien invasion in a way that is truly surprising, Mars, cavemen, and… well, us.
While the story is action-packed and thought-provoking, complete with rich characters and inspired dialogue, it’s Sean Murphy and Matt Hollingsworth that make it scary. The art is a driving force here, especially in Leeward’s half of the series, and Snyder plays to his strengths. Murphy’s thin lines and hyper-detailed pages succeed in both world-building and creating horrifying creatures that seem as real as they are deadly.
The Wake isn’t exactly the horror that I’ve come to expect from Scott Snyder, but that’s why I loved it. It blew my expectations out of the water – aw yeah – and built and built into a complex, ambitious epic with scope that ranges from billions of years in the past to hundreds of years in the future.
NEXT TIME: Our horrific journey ends with a zombie comic from Robert Kirkman. Nope – not that one.