The Waking Dreams End #1
“The Waking, Volume 2: Dreams End”
Writer: Raven Gregory
Pencils: Novo Malgapo
Colors: Michael Garcia
Cover artists: Ale Garza/Eric Basaldua
Publisher: Zenescope Entertainment
Price: $3.99 US
Raven Gregory is a comic-book industry workhorse who’s developed a small but apparently successful little empire in that industry, but his niche readership is small enough you’ve probably not heard of him. But with Grimm Fairy Tales, various other titles and a lot of cheesecake covers, he’s tapped into a demand for particular material and carved out his own corner in the marketplace. I don’t think I’m a part of the demographic he and his colleagues at Zenescope are after, but there’s no denying the outfit publishes professionally crafted comics. After reading this comic, I was impressed with the unusual premise, but the script made something else clear: the Zenescope staffers believe they’re reaching a loyal readership and don’t seem all that interested in growing the audience beyond one dedicated group. Still, there’s a strong foundation here, as well as some capable, straightforward comic art that doesn’t reflect the gratuitous nature of so many Zenescope cover images.
A while back, a wild-eyed man changed the world by making it so the dead would come back to life. The phenomenon became known as the Waking, and one of the ways it transformed the world is practically eliminating murder. What’s the point of killing someone if he or she’s going to be up and around, walking around as though nothing happened? So when Chicago police detectives Vanessa Pelagreno and Dorian Grant catch the first homicide case in years, everyone in the loop is taken aback. Little do they know that the man responsible for a legion of missing persons and murders is doing something unimaginably horrific to the bodies.
Penciller Novo Malgapo boasts a fairly traditional, North American comic-book style, but he tells the story clearly. At times, his work reminded me a little of the styles of such artists as Nicola Scott and Pat Olliffe. I’m not entirely convinced his style is well suited for a story with such horror-genre roots as this one. The more depraved, twisted visuals in the book look rather…ordinary. The ideas Malgapo is trying to convey are awful and chilling in nature, but the way he depicts those ideas didn’t come off as disturbing as they ought to have. I don’t believe it’s not a failing on the artist’s part; it’s just that his traditional style might have been a mismatch for the nature of the story.
Malgapo is to be applauded, though, for his depiction of the female characters. They’re not sexualized; the story doesn’t call for it. Pelagreno is portrayed as a haunted but smart, determined young woman. She fills the role of heroine quite nicely thanks to the art and the script. One of the problems with a number of Zenescope comics is how one can easily dismiss them due to the emphasis on T&A on so many of the publisher’s covers. Sure, sure, “you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover,” but a comic-book cover is meant to convey the tone, plot and/or hook of the content within. Cleavage Coffee Girl and Legs-Spread Victim don’t achieve that goal.
Raven Gregory’s central premise, what I can gather of it, is a novel take on the undead/zombie genre. Instead of plunging the country or the world into an apocalypse, the dead coming back to life appears to have instead had a transformational effect on society without shaking it to its very foundations. The world continues to work, but in a slightly different way. I’m interested in this world, but I don’t know enough about it. I don’t really get what’s going on with the resurrections. I don’t know enough about how Vanessa interfered with the phenomenon, how the creepy girl manifested her power or how the world has adjusted. I don’t know how it works, and it’s really important information in order to follow the plot.
I realize the answers are probably to be found in the first The Waking limited series, but Gregory definitely should have provided more exposition for potential new readers. A text piece on the inside front cover, maybe a two-page flashback sequence… give me something. That’s why I’m left with the impression this Zenescope title (and perhaps many others) is meant to exist as an exclusive club for early adopters. Obviously, I know the Zenescope folks would prefer to expand their reach and their brand, but the execution has the opposite effect. 5/10
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