The Wake has been a surreal, centuries spanning tale of humanity: our evolution, what drives us, what we fear, what we love and what we’ll die for. What started as two distinct stories—first Dr. Archer and her ultimately doomed expedition, and then Leeward and Dash, her trusty dolphin companion— is revealed to be interconnected in ways that I for one, could not have imagined until reading this final issue. Every page along the way was gripping for a multitude of reasons. Scott Snyder leads his characters through truly terrifying sequences, offsets them with moments of genuine affection between each other, and gives enough information to immediately endear them to readers. Or hate them with the passion of a thousand boiling suns, in the case of the Governess— who despite being the obvious baddy, you can understand her motivations even if you don’t agree with them.
It’s a living world in turmoil, which Sean Murphy renders with precision. There’s a reason he won the Best Penciller Eisner Award this year for his work on The Wake: the art is unmistakably his and represented beautifully through Matt Hollingsworth's colours. The palette is asynchronous to other books on the shelves but again, suits the world of The Wake and firmly sets the mood for the series. Each panel furthers the story but Murphy ensures to make space for stillness, quiet moments between the action that say just as much as the text within one of Jared K. Fletcher’s well positioned and designed word bubbles or narrative boxes. The entire team on this series is putting out top notch work, another reason why The Wake also won Best Limited Series (with one issue still yet to be released when the awards were announced).
The buildup throughout has been amazing but the denouement of #10 tops it all— in a way that caught me completely off guard. Snyder took what could easily have been a formulaic deep sea thriller concept in anyone else's hands and created a mythos in The Wake that challenges readers to ponder their basic humanity, and be brave in their lives. It’s such a tremendous reveal, and makes so much sense in that world, that I had to sit and think about it all after reading it. As someone who jumps from one book to the next with barely any pause between, that says a lot about the story Murphy, Snyder, et al. have woven. Some may call the Eisner Awards a popularity contest but The Wake’s wins are well deserved.