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What on Infinite Earths is: The Wake?

G D Penman By G D Penman Published on December 14, 2015

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The Wake is really two comic events that happen to share a setting:

The first half, taking place in the present, is a tense survival horror story revolving around a monstrous creature held captive in a secret underwater base that, as is traditional, escapes and slaughters everyone inside. The twist in this story is that the captured monster is a mermaid. A hideous mermaid drawing on all the worst traits of deep sea creatures in its design. But still a mermaid.

The second half, taking place after a global, aquatic apocalypse, revolves around the survivors in a world overrun by the mermaids. Struggling to survive and maintain the hope that someday they will overcome.

The first story is well paced and claustrophobic, the protagonist is an expert in the sounds that marine animals make, called in to consult on the strange mind-altering sounds that the mermaid produces, briefly, before it is more or less forgotten about apart from a few odd hallucinations. It seems that this song and the protagonist's expertise are going to be central to the story when in fact they are mere sidelines to the chaos that is about to ensue. The rest of the story is an amalgam of Alien and Deep Blue Sea, as the experts within the top secret underwater base that nobody knows about flounder and fail to protect themselves from what at first seems to be a single piscine aggressor and then turns out to be an entire unknown species including inexplicably gigantic duplicates of the one that had already laid waste to the cast. Presumably to cash in on the Japanese myth of the Ningen that was circulating the internet about the time of The Wake. In the end, the heroes fail and are dragged down into the sea, presumably to be redeemed by the actions of their descendants in the second half.

The post-apocalyptic section of this story is a garbled mess. All of the tight focus and character dynamics are tossed aside in favour of ridiculous action sequences and forced conflicts between the protagonist and the humans trying to maintain a grip on control. Eventually leading to them fleeing with a group of pirates to discover the hidden secret of humanity's history with the merfolk through a convenient deus ex machina crashed alien spaceship. The second half of this mini-series had a few memorable moments and a fun dolphin but it was a storytelling disaster, all over the place in terms of tone and character motivation.

The Wake would honestly have been better ending on the death of the characters in the first half or focussing on events during the mermaid invasion. I am not saying that viewing a story of ancient aliens and humanity's early ancestors from a post apocalyptic setting could not work. I am just saying that The Wake failed to produce anything coherent.

All in all, a mixed review. If you are one of those people who are capable of reading part of a work and then setting it down then it is well worth picking up the first half of The Wake as an enjoyable dip into the well swum waters of science-fiction/horror. If you are one of those people who suffered through the Star Wars prequels just because they existed then do yourself a favour and avoid this miniseries entirely.

G.D. Penman writes about queer monsters for a living. He is the author of Call Your Steel, The Year of the Knife, Heart of Winter, Apocrypha and many other books. He is also a full-time freelance ... Show More

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