This week’s graphic novel pick is The Wake, by Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy, Vertigo/ DC. Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy’s ten part limited series The Wake was one of the Vertigo imprints’ banner books of last year – an ambitious ten part tale that involved multiple timelines and several genres, with horror, sci-fi and humour all thrown into the mix, which garnered awards and plaudits, including an Eisner gong. Despite its artistic quality, however, its reach does often exceed its grasp, with several narratives not quite gelling as one would hope. The story involves renegade cetologist Dr. Archer being press-ganged into investigating a new marine menace that quickly overruns the installation that she and her crew have been sequestered to. Two-hundred years later, the story, noticeably lighter and more offhand in tone, focusses on Leeward, another maverick female lead who attempts to outrun the tyrannical Governess and her seafaring cronies in an effort to reshape the timeline and end the dystopian oceanic hell that was initiated earlier. Despite the intricate and clever plotting, the exposition does overwhelm, its cautionary message rather unwieldy and out of place. There isn’t enough time to warm to the two lead characters, who only overlap in a perfunctory manner – Leeward’s long voyage to discover Archer’s former whereabouts yielding a great deal of clever but insubstantial historical framing. However, there are definite pluses – the artwork and concepts are excellent, Sean Murphy’s efforts often reminiscent of Howard Chaykin’s early 70s work. The claustrophobia in the early chapters is palpable, the monstrous Mer a threatening and indestructible force of nature. And despite the wilfully oddball second half, clunky themes and slightly twee denouement, it’s a superior, engaging series that is certainly worth a look.