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Wake Vol. 4/5: The Sign of the Demons By Wil Moss
Written by Jean David Morvan Drawn by Philippe Buchet $14.95 Published by NBM Publishing www.nbmpublishing.com
The latest installment of the French comic Wake is a change in format for its stateside publisher, NBM. Volumes 1 through 3 were published individually, as they were in Europe, but to give Americans who are now used to heavier collections more bang for their buck, two volumes will be included in each collection from now on—the books formerly running about 50 or so pages for $10 are now instead about 100 pages for $15. Nice deal all around.
Wake tells the story of Navee, the sole known human being in a distant future. She was discovered as a young girl by a conglomeration of thousands of civilizations that travel through space looking for habitable planets to colonize called Wake. Now she works as a special agent for Wake, going on missions throughout the universe. Premise wise, Wake is similar to Leave It to Chance, but set in space, and an awful lot more complex.
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The complex part comes into play in these two stories at least, “The Sign of the Demons” and the fifth volume, whose title is written in an alien language. “The Sign of the Demons” starts off with Navee and some other members of Wake landing on a planet where some other Wake agents have recently gone missing. It’s a planet still in medieval stages, ruled up until recently solely by five clans. Now the race that served as slaves has established their own dominion, lead by Princess Moneva. They attack all outsiders, including Wake agents, as well as the five clans who are eager to crush their former slaves’ new power.
The story deals with corruption and betrayal, governments and ruling powers, yet it maintains a sense of energy and dynamism through the art and the characters. It’s an engaging story that starts off running, slows, builds to a huge climax, then creates a different climax altogether that is more central and personal to our lead, Navee.
The fifth volume is heavy, smart reading. It deals with suicide bombers and in today’s world it’s a story that strikes as very relevant given the events of the last few years and the war going on today. Navee gets kidnapped by a terrorist group who protest against the unfair conditions their people are subjected to on the garbage ships that they work and live on for Wake. Navee finds herself sympathizing with her kidnappers and their plight and even goes so far as to visit these garbage ships to try to change things, only for disastrous results.
The fifth volume suffers a little from the story kind of ramming its point down the reader’s throat, but it can’t be faulted for the thoroughness which it examines its subject. The characters take a back seat in this story, making Volume 4 the more engaging story, but Volume 5 still makes for interesting reading.
I hadn’t read any of the previous volumes of Wake, but the stories here are self-contained enough that it wasn’t a hindrance. There are elements of an over-arching story here that would make Wake enjoyable to read in context of the other volumes, but this collection reads perfectly well on its own as well.
The art is gorgeous, filled with incredible detail and a look that is as if it was all animation cells. That is probably also do to the bright coloring, which adds both depth and emotion to the story. The art is distinctly European, but it has traces of both manga and American art as well. The character designs are unique enough that, despite some unusual alien names, it is always easy enough to distinguish between characters.
Wake offers up something different both in format and content than what a lot of American comic fans might normally read, yet it has elements both in story and in characters that should be appealing and similar enough to get a reader roped into. Wake is sci-fi action-adventure done right, with beautiful art and entertaining, complex stories. Check it out.