Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Awakening, Volume One review

After a couple of years, months, and other assorted delays, Nick Tapalansky and Alex Eckman-Lawn's existential-horror-mystery series, Awakening, finally get its first collected hardcover release. After all of this, has it really been worth the wait?

For those unaware, Awakening initially was published as an individual issue series starting in 2007; with ten planned issues, the first half of which was to be collected. Due to some dilemmas and a restructuring of Archaia Studios Press, only three of these individual issues ever came to be. However, thanks to everything being cleared up, these three issues and the two that followed are finally available for all to read as part of this hardcover collection.

Collecting the first five issues of the series, Awakening, Volume One centers the story around former Park Falls detective, Derrick Peters, who is investigating a chain of recent, mysterious assaults by unknown assailants. However, Derrick's only eye witness at the moment is none other than Cynthia Ford, the "town crazy", leaving Detective Peters in a peculiar situation of disbelief.

Because this hardcover collects five issues of the series, it would be a little unfair of me to explain each part individually (I mean, that's why you're supposed to buy it); especially since each volume continues right after the other. But spoilers aside, what I can telling you is that the story of Awakening is very compelling, especially if you're like me and have a thing for detective stories. However, for those looking for zombies on top of zombies, you may want to look elsewhere as this book is more about human nature than it is about flesh ripping.

This part of Awakening truly was the only thing that made me get into the series to begin with, having previously browsed through Alex Eckman-Lawn's artwork for the series, minus the text, via his online gallery. Perhaps it's the accidental blend of both Ashley Wood's and Ben Templesmith's styles, or just how well the artwork sets the tone for the book; but there was just something about the artwork of this book that made me have to own it. And with the hard cover's semi-gloss paper, Eckman-Lawn's artwork looks better than ever.

However, one thing the internet couldn't show me is just how much the artwork of this series changed during its 2007-2008 run. While the artwork is purposely sloppy, what you find in the first volume almost seems other-worldly when you get to the fifth volume. Gone is the heavy black line work, instead you'll find a comic that has found comfort in its unique style; and I'm certainly curious to see how much more the artwork will improve the next time around.

While for me, the initial appeal of Awakening was Alex Eckman-Lawn's artwork, I was more than pleased to find that Nick Tapalansky's writing was just as good. I think what makes Awakening so appealing, for myself at least, is how it conveys the feeling of a classic detective noir film, in just its writing alone. In fact, most of the text in the book comes from the narration of Derrick Peters, more so than conversation between other characters, which further embraces that existential feeling of the book.

But, much like the artwork of Awakening, the writing of the first book greatly differs by the time you get to issue five. For the better of course, but I certainly noticed more maturity and professionalism to the writing by the end of this first collection, leaving my expectations for the next collection pretty high.

As a note to those who actually picked up the first three issues of Awakening, here's why you need to buy the hardcover: contains issues four and five, has supplemental artwork from both Alex Eckman-Lawn and other artists, and it just plain looks awesome. But for those like myself who never got the chance to find Awakening in individual issues, or just didn't known about it, this hardcover collection is a must buy.

After years of only being able to browse limited pieces of artwork online, it was a really special feeling to finally hold Awakening in my hands and read it. While I can't guarantee everyone else will get that feeling, I highly suggest that you pick this up regardless. Because of if this first collection is anything to go by, then the next collection can only get better.

Overall Score: 9/10

For more on Awakening, visit Archaia's Official Website

Buy Awakening at, Barnes&, or other online retailers and comic book shops!

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