The fact I love GREEN WAKE so much says a great deal about me as a person, I feel. This sad green book from Riley Rossmo and Kurtis J Wiebe is the comic equivalent of having your head held underwater and all you can see tangled in the reeds below are all the things you love.
I dunked my own head every month on this book and would do it again in a heartbeat if it were ever to return [which it no doubt will not, just yet another sad ending for it all]. The premise is that Green Wake is a town where people wake up to stew on their sins in life. It’s a melancholy purgatory and when murders start happening then Morley Mack and his offsider Krieger look into the affair.
From a pared down PI framework, to the sketchy and muted visuals from Rossmo, GREEN WAKE wore its depression on its sleeve. Rooted in grief, and self-reflection, Wiebe was open in admitting the book was therapy for him, a way to work through certain questions his mind couldn’t align. Or didn’t want to. Coming from that place to inform a town of murder and uncertainty is something that fascinates me because it’s real, it’s raw, and it means the story has meat on the bone. You don’t follow the pretty lines and then allow the story and pages to quickly fade from your mind like you scrawled them into your brainpan in invisible ink. No, GREEN WAKE stays with you because it’s so visceral, so poignant, and so very very damn well done.
You see, everything about this book screams that it’s going to be a weird, messed up, pseudo-psycho sci fi noir and that’s something that’s been done before. But with Rossmo’s art we instantly get something fresh, something brutal, and using that connection to the audience Wiebe manages to do the ultimate noir move and make us care. So when he pulls the rug out from under us we topple over and know we’ll never be able to stand again. It sucks because Mack’s noir spiral is as much about all of us as it is about him. The central concept of Green Wake is so universal that you walk away thinking about yourself, your life, and where you are going just as much as you consider this poor four colour bastard on the page.
That idea of how grief hollows you out, what it takes to overcome its firm and clammy embrace, and the realisation there is no ‘victory’ to be had or found over it sucks. You so desperately want it to be another way but there it is, right in front of you, and you knew it, you knew it all along, but you hoped. To fall from hope is to pack weights onto your shoulders before stepping off the tower’s top.
Sometimes the best noir let’s you think you’ll be the special one [because through the main characters we so often project ourselves and Morley Mack is a great lead for this]. You see that finish line and the crossing line is rotted and razor sharp and there’s nothing but empty space after it to drift off into but you still think you’ll be running more on the other side and you’ll eventually find happy bright land under your feet. You really believe, and then it switches.
The great realisation of GREEN WAKE is that Mack gets out, he manages to set himself free, he wins. But the whole reason he was there is because he wasn’t dealing well with his grief at all, his self-hatred for the car crash he caused that took the life of his wife. He fell within himself and landed in Green Wake. But then he got out, he forgave himself. The end, right?
Remember that question; can you ever truly forgive yourself? The real answer in so many of us is a flat firm ‘no.’ You might have good days, but you’ll have bad days, and in the end your heart is soured. You’ll fall back because you are broken and while you might look fixed from certain angles, and you might even still be able to serve your purpose, the truth is that you are broken. So Mack ends up back in Green Wake and that’s the eternal struggle.
You’ll never stop fighting yourself because you’ll never actually set down your tools.
GREEN WAKE was bold enough to know this and to show it, and the result is a book that’s mesmerising, and difficult at times, and so very incredibly important as a one-man noir.
Back in the day, I used to sling words about comics and I fell hard in love with GREEN WAKE and you can scope the following things:
Another interview at the end of the first arc [LINK]
Dan Hill’s OPENING CONTRACT column looked at the first panel of the first page of the first issue. It’s golden stuff [LINK] and you can buy Dan’s entire ebook of that column, with extra creator interviews alongside it all here [LINK], and trust me, you should pick this book up, it’s one of my prescribed must read books about comics.
And if you’re a tight ass, you can actually read all of GREEN WAKE here online like a webcomic [LINK] – spoilers, it also includes an issue I wrote that never made it to print but I collaborated on it with Nathaniel Ooten just because I really loved the script and he knocked it out of the park. My issue, a one-shot, is also very much about the chase down the spiral. Enjoy.
This here is a comic hitting shelves right now and you need to be reading it. Written by Wiebe with art from Johnnie Christmas, coloured by Tamra Bonvillain, it feels like the spiritual follow up to GREEN WAKE and I’m all signed up to walk down the path into damnation with this story and team.
This comic has only begun this year so it’s fun to analyse the pieces we have so far and postulate how and where we are going to be led, or dragged. The first issues do not spoonfeed you so you can only nudge forward based on gut instinct. I like this. It assumes intelligence in the reader, it allows surprises, and it builds character and emotion when done well and this is doing it all very well.
PISCES is like HANNIBAL in the way it builds on the tone of scenes before anything else. We are following our lead, Dillon, a Vietnam vet struggling to settle back into the real world, and inexplicably we are segued into a weird sci fi body horror where everything is metaphysical and so the dread seeps into your bones. It’s gloriously unsettling.
Seeing into his days in ‘Nam, we see where Dillon has come from, and how disturbed warfare can be. It’s the perfect way to break a person into small pieces and then it’s a crapshoot which shards will survive. With this context built, we catch up with Dillon back home and you know it’s all no good and so it becomes a matter of discovering how bad it is, where he’ll go wrong, and for me I can’t stop wondering if it’ll all be his own fault. I mean, the world kicks us hard, so it’s never only our fault, but we each get moments, opportunities, and we take responsibility. So observing Dillon’s case, as this game can feel at times, is hard to do and made harder by these space-helmeted interludes where Dillon has no idea of what’s going on and we get few hints about time, place, or reality. It’s a four dimensional mystery and there’s no goddamn chance at all it’ll end well.
Some men are born to fade to black and watching them hold on can sometimes pain us more than the final blip at their end. PISCES is a study in us holding fast as we watch and wait for the inevitable, whether it’s in his past, his present, or this ethereal future.