Sunday, November 9, 2014

The Wake

 Once in a while, a book comes along that makes you question all that you hold dear.

 "Was that a work of genius, and I'm retarded...? Or was that a bunch of crap, and I'm still as smart as I always was?"

 Scott Snyder's THE WAKE is one of those books, and I'm leaning toward the second option.
I've always been a fan of stories that offered a midpoint swerve that turns the whole narrative on its head. I loved the way that FROM DUCK TILL DAWN started off as a crime film, and morphed into a gonzo horror movie. So it's not like I have a problem with that type of switcheroo...I don't. I'm going to try to keep this spoiler-free, but there are a few things that I can't help but discuss, so be warned.....There might be something here that you could consider spoilery.

 THE WAKE starts off a rip-roaring Horror story. A group of scientists, trapped in an illegal deep-sea oil-rig, find themselves besieged by a vicious race of mer-people. This takes up the first half of the book, and while I had a lot of issues with the story, writer Scott Snyder ratchets up the suspense, and artist Sean Murphy makes the proceedings appropriately creepy and disturbing.

 So far, so good.

 Things take a turn for the worse, however, in the last half of the book, when we jump ahead hundreds of years into the future, when the book becomes a love song to Kevin Costner's WATERWORLD, complete with wetsuit clad characters riding around in catamarans and consulting maps of the flooded-out United States. THE WAKE goes from Survival Horror to Post-Apocalyptic hard Science Fiction in no time flat, and the jarring transition really killed whatever momentum the book had going for it.

 First off, I'll say that, while the first half of the book had problems, I was really enjoying it, despite one major misgiving: The story is a straight-up riff on the Animal Planet hoax/faux-documentary MERMAIDS: THE BODY FOUND, right down to the "Aquatic Ape Theory", the visuals of mermaids traveling and hunting as a spear-toting pack, hell, the creature designs are virtually identical. I'm tempted to call this a blatant swipe, but it might be some big coincidence for all I know. Either way, you can't help but think "Hey, this is just like that bogus shit I saw on Animal Planet a while back!" Snyder also breaks another of my personal taboos by trying to tell a realistic, grounded story, and then including 200-foot long Mer-Men. Uh-uh. No. That's just too much for me to accept. Next!

 Next is the leap into the future, which read, to me, like Snyder having two totally unrelated, incomplete stories, then trying to graft them together into a complete narrative.

Didn't work.

At all.

 If the first half was MERMAIDS: THE BODY FOUND REDUX, the second half was WATERWORLD PART DEUX. I'm not a big Science-Fiction fan under the best of circumstances...seeing a fairly serviceable Horror story morph, in the space of one page, into a poor man's waterlogged version of
2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY....not the best of circumstances.

 We're thrust into the flooded world of the future, where we're asked to believe that naked, swimming fish-people were able to sink/flood/destroy virtually the entire civilized world within a month, just by swimming so hard that they created tidal waves that engulfed all of us dry-land types. Ummm...OK. From there, Snyder introduces a cast of characters that seems to have stepped out of an undersea version of THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW, sending them around the world INSIDE THE BODY OF A 200-FOOT-LONG MER-MAN WHO HAS BEEN MADE INTO A SUBMERSIBLE VEHICLE (!!!!), before giving us a slew of incomprehensible claptrap that regurgitates the end of 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, but was harder to understand. I literally have no idea what happened at the end of this book, which made me feel quite dumb, until I remembered that I'M THE ONE THAT PEOPLE USUALLY ASK TO EXPLAIN THE END OF COMPLICATED MOVIES, so maybe it wasn't me, maybe this just made no kind of sense. I even went back and tried to reread the info-dump pages, but my eyes glazed over and I thought "Do you really care...?"

 The answer to that was a resounding "NO."

 This was an interesting misstep on Snyder's part. Snyder is yet another DC creator that I just don't "get"....My advice regarding THE WAKE would be to skip it outright, or maybe read the first half of the collection (Issues 1-5), and skip the rest.

 DC Comics provided a review copy.