I have this bad habit of walking into comic stores with no real plan of what I’m buying. I just kind of wander around until something pops out at me, flip through the pages and mutter something to myself about the artwork, maybe glance at the intro, and then stumble up to the counter, fork over some money, and head home.
…I’m not very good at shopping.
Anyway, sometimes this ends up as a total trainwreck. I get fooled by sweet cover art, a handful of good-looking pages, and maybe a character that I’d like to take to bed in a manly fashion…but then the story ends up sucking and I’m out a couple bucks. Which would be fine if it was only a couple. (Or this happened relatively infrequently.) But alas, I have a terrible tendency to not buy just one or two random things. Sometimes it’s five.
But sometimes – sometimes – I end up getting really lucky and stumbling on something really amazing when I make my stupid decisions.
Not too long ago I felt the urge to read something new, so I asked the guys at my comic shop to recommend something to me. They stared at me blankly.
Understand that it was a new store for me, so they’d never seen me before, and I was standing there with two copies of the same issue of Magic (variant covers, yo), the last issue of Monocyte, and an issue of Adventure Time. What would you recommend?
But one bold soul spoke up and said, “Have you read Green Wake?”
“No, good sir,” I replied. “No, I have not. Please, show me the wonders of this title!”
Ok maybe it didn’t go quite like that. I said no. He showed me Volume 1 and told me I’d probably like the art, but I might be disappointed that they canceled it after ten issues. And I did. And I was. So kudos to you, random guy who knew virtually nothing about what I was looking for and I have not seen since then – you totally nailed it.
Anyway, Green Wake was published by Image back in 2011 with 25 issues planned, but it only made it to 10 before being unceremoniously canceled. Writer Kurtis J. Wiebe and artist Riley Rossmo wove a riveting story of doom and gloom, loss and sadness, and attempts at redemption, and it was positively beautiful if not maddeningly confusing at times. It’s a mystery, it’s a horror, it’s a thriller, it’s a little bit of love, and Wiebe has a way of blending all of those things into a perfect mushy combination of glorious storytelling.
“Woah, back up there!” you may say, in scary unison. “You haven’t even told us what the story’s about!”
Ok fine. So basically there’s this town, Silent Hill. …er, Green Wake. But it’s kind of like Silent Hill. Except it’s not the same terror and dread you feel in the good old SH. Wiebe has written Green Wake as creepy and rundown and depressing, because of course it is, right? But more importantly, it exudes this feeling of uneasiness. You just don’t feel right while reading it, and that’s brilliant because the story draws you into these characters that are all kind of…wrong. And you don’t entirely know what’s going on, the same as they don’t know what’s really going on either; they’re trying to figure out what Green Wake is and what it means the same as you are – and while that’s nothing new in fiction, it’s done impressively well here. The story will intrigue you, confound you, make you think you know what it’s doing and then do not that at all, take your breath away, and break your heart a little bit…not necessarily in that order.
And the art will do the same. Rossmo is incredibly emotive with his raw but controlled sketchy style and never lets up, coming damn close to overwhelming you with every single grotesquely gorgeous page. (And I mean grotesque in the best possible way.) I feel like one day Odin looked down and smiled and said, “Here, silly little humans. Enjoy this treat.” And had Wiebe and Rossmo meet each other.
Because Rossmo’s style was born to illustrate a story like this, and Wiebe’s writing could only speak for imagery of this caliber. The layers that each lends to the other is astounding, and their cohesion is even more remarkable considering the crazy story and chaotic visual style. Most impressive to me is Rossmo’s ability to control that chaos, letting bits of beauty shine through instead of only focusing on the horror aspect that I’m personally kind of burned out on. It’s rare for a work to feel like a true, complete collaboration, but this one is; the communication between these two is apparent and makes for a gorgeous book.
At its core, Green Wake isn’t about horror or gore or shock, even if it has plenty of all that; it’s about redemption. You’re dragged through pools of regret and guilt and remorse and deep, soul-shaking stuff, and you somehow come out at the end with a little bit of hope. This isn’t a happy-smiley-unicorns-and-cotton-candy ending, but it wouldn’t be right if it was. Volume 1 ends where Wiebe planned to have the series end (and personally, I kind of wish it would have) but Volume 2 answers questions, gives some closure, and pulls the plot together to its elegant but weighty conclusion.
You will think about this story after you finish it. Sure, you’ll peruse the extra content – rejected covers, character journals, and little art tidbits – but you’ll just keep thinking. If you’ve ever blamed yourself for anything, if you’ve ever regretted something, if you’ve ever lost anyone…you’ll think.
And if you’re like me, you’ll end on the thought, “Why in the hell was this canceled?”