I'm only familiar with Scott Snyder's work from his run on Batman, so I didn't know what to expect from The Wake #1, beyond it being worth a peek. It does not disappoint. Not only is it a strong debut issue, it's also a fascinating tale that spans across time and affects people throughout history, whether it's a cavemen, a modern day Cetologist, or a cross-species friendship in a post-apocalyptic, oceanic future. There's a lot at work in this story, and although the basic premise of deep sea exploration (including the potential for lurking creatures within the deep) has been analyzed before, Snyder makes it feel brand new. In the span of a few pages, readers quickly discover the type of person Dr. Archer is, all through a brief conversation with her son and then a confrontation with the mysterious Agent Astor Cruz. Of course, we don't know her entire history (as a brief flashback panel demonstrates), but Snyder effortlessly gives us insight into her character. We know she's strong-willed and stands up for her beliefs (even to the detriment of her professional career), that she is passionate about her job (cetology: a branch of marine mammal science, studying whales, dolphins and other Cetacean creatures) and perhaps most importantly, she is willing to do whatever it takes to make her son a bigger part of her life. She's empathetic and relateable without being predictable, the perfect "everyman" for readers as they traverse this progressively odder deep sea tale.
The art is a delight: expertly laid out panels from Sean G Murphy that burst with life through Matt Hollingsworth colours. The palette shifts from scene to scene, creating different moods that complement character interactions, although it's even more powerful when Hollingworth uses colour to contrast beautiful vistas with serious scenes. Even in the scarier moments, there are aspects of beauty: a testament to Murphy and Hollingsworth's storytelling skill. It would be simpler to showcase such unease and horror in a more black and white manner, but instead they include shades of gray (and blues, greens, etc.) because things are never as simple as they seem. Especially with a story connected throughout centuries, it's natural and welcome to have so much depth in every aspect. We're only treated to glimpses of this depth in the first issue, but it's enough to have snared this reader. Give The Wake a shot, but one word of warning: I'm not responsible for any nightmares or creepy crawly feelings you may have after reading it.