Welcome to “Weber Has Issues”, which will (in theory) be a weekly look at a newly released comic book or trade paperback collection. Each column will highlight a comic that is accessible and requires little or no previous familiarity with its concepts or characters. Sometimes I’ll go back and delve into some of my all-time favorite stories.
This week’s featured issue comes to us from DC’s venerable Vertigo line of alternative comics, which was once known as the home of iconic characters like Constantine, Swamp Thing, and The Sandman (no, not the ECW guy in Zubaz that hits people with a plank). Nowadays, the Vertigo imprint is a mostly a home for established comic creators trying new (usually non super-heroic) things as well as a place for newer writing and artistic talent to cut its teeth on creator-owned books, usually with mature themes. I currently collect (and usually enjoy) several Vertigo books, specifically Fables, Fairest and am looking forward to the return of Astro City (moving over to Vertigo from DC’s late Wildstorm imprint). In Vertigo’s mid-90’s heyday, I collected nearly everything they put out (Preacher and Sandman are two of my absolute all-time favorites).
The Wake #1(of a 10 issue limited series, $2.99), written by Scott Snyder and with art by Sean Murphy, fits comfortably into the sci-fi/horror genre but is not exactly kitschy fare like “Deep Blue Sea” or “Leviathan”, though there are hints of that sort of undersea claustrophobic tension. This story reads more like “Alien”(the first one) but hundreds of leagues under the surface of the ocean. The story unfolds simultaneously in prehistoric times, the present (90% of the issue takes place now) and 200 years in the future. Don’t worry, though complex in texture, the plot is easy to follow.
Early on in The Wake, we are introduced to Dr. Lee Archer, a cetologist (marine biologist specializing in aquatic mammals) who in particular is adept in recognizing patterns of whale song. Archer is a struggling scientist, living paycheck-to-paycheck in the Pacific Northwest after losing her government contract over an ethical compromise. The feds come calling for her when an experiment on the ocean floor goes awry, and though reluctant to help, the government dangles a carrot that coerces Lee to sign on. The only evidence she’s presented is a whale’s song that becomes a frightening shriek and her expertise is needed: She’s encountered something that scared the whales before. Archer soon is put onto a team of mysterious specialists to investigate further, and that’s all you really need to know (I’m trying to keep these reviews as spoiler-free as possible).
The story is paced well, evoking “Lost” and “The Abyss” with plot points slowly revealed, but with enough tension to make you fly to the next page in anticipation. Snyder’s script is expository but not clumsy; characterizations are solid and clear while the plot is dense but compelling. I’m a big fan of Snyder’s from his recent work on Batman, and he’s making terrific comics right now. The art by Murphy is angular and moody; his rendering of technologically sophisticated structures and vehicles is believable, and all his characters are easily identified and not muddy or indistinguishable. The 10 issue structure, which seems just the right length (paging Michael Scott!) will surely make for a terrific collection if one can wait that long. I can’t, and will look forward to next month’s issue #2.
Other new comics I purchased this week: Earth 2 Annual #1, Fury MAX #12 and Justice League of America #4.
To buy The Wake, I recommend supporting your local comic book brick-and-mortar store. To find one near you, call 1-888-COMIC BOOK.