I’m just going to get it out of the way up front. I’m not a big fan of The Wake by Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy. It’s not terrible by any means, but I just struggled with the storyline and the art didn’t excite me that much. I’m sure it’s just a failing on my part as a reader, and you should check it out for yourself.
The Wake fits neatly into the cli-fi category (climate fiction). A shady government character brings together a team consisting of an expert on whale songs (I can’t remember the scientific name for that), an expert in mythology and folklore, and an expert hunter of all things of the ocean, whether legal or illegal, to investigate something that has been making mysterious noises in the ocean and has peaked the attention of U.S. Homeland Security. I don’t want to give away spoilers, but the plot moves quickly. Before you know it the team is trapped in a deep-sea base trying to escape the thing making the mysterious noises. I think growing up with Alien and so many other movies where the protagonist is running from a monster in some weird industrial setting just made this section of the series seem stale to me. The good news is the second part of the series is better, in my opinion.
Fast forward to after the apocalyptic climate event, and we have a new protagonist, a descendant of the expert on whale songs. She’s trying to figure out mysterious messages being broadcast from somewhere far away. She’s convinced they hold the key to saving the world, but the government in the new waterland-ish world doesn’t necessarily want anyone to figure it out. This part of the series seemed fresher to me; however, there’s a lot fanciful semi-evolutionary, semi-spiritual hypothesizing about human origins and why events have happened. Some of it just seemed half-baked to me, and several times I wasn’t quite sure what was going on or what it meant to the story as a whole. I’m a fan of post-apocalyptic fiction, so I enjoyed that aspect of the book, but as a whole I was disappointed. Check it out and see what you think
I have always been a sucker for post-apocalyptic stories, and Just a Pilgrim by Garth Ennis fits that bill. It was originally released as a five-issue miniseries by Black Bull in 2001, but you can get the complete trade paperback now. Ennis, of Preacher and Punisher fame, combines a bunch of off-kilter ideas and character traits in this story, which makes the comic interesting, but strangely enough, also keeps it from being anything other than an amusing oddity.
The story takes place after a solar event called “the burn” scorches the Earth, destroys all plant life, and evaporates all the water. Apparently, the radiation also created some monsters. The setting is a quirky mix of an Eastwood spaghetti western and The Road Warrior. Pilgrim is Eastwood, kinda.
We are never given his name, other than Pilgrim. He’s an anti-hero that the reader can never quite be sure about, especially at the end. In typical Ennis fashion, Pilgrim is a religious fundamentalist with a wicked past and a penchant for grotesque violence, while quoting scripture. He assists a group of people traveling through the wasteland of the Atlantic seabed trying to find a rumored outpost where people can live in relative safety. On the way, a band of barbarians, with a leader who is the stereotypical pirate, becomes determined to kill, rape, and pillage the group. A young boy with the travelling group, Billy Shepherd, documents the trip in his diary. It’s high adventure on the dried up seas.
Some of the details just feel like they were meant to be shocking for the sake of being shocking. Pilgrim’s character is interesting. Is he a hero? An anti-hero? A villain? But the religious twist just feels like Ennis is taking unfair jabs at people of faith. Overall, Just a Pilgrim is a quick, easy read with post-apocalyptic flair and adventure, but there’s not much weight to it.