The Awakening is a slasher film on paper. Lonely student Francesca starts attending a prestigious boarding school only to fall into a coma after she discovers another girl killed late at night. It takes the book a third of its length to get to this point, and that setup section was the part I enjoyed most. There are some well-executed character bits, so I found it even more of a shame that little of it was necessary or had any kind of payoff. There’s a lot of emphasis paid to the setting, but it winds up almost irrelevant.
If this was a film, I would never have watched it, because I dislike the genre. As a comic, I kept being reminded of movies, especially Black Christmas and The Exorcist. Even though I’m not a fan, it all felt very familiar. The benefit for me was the lack of emphasis put on the killings and gore. I could easily move past those few panels to get back to the mystery.
Perhaps the odd gender breakdown — the students are all girls, and the majority of adult characters are men — is also an artifact of that genre. A few mothers are allowed a handful of lines, but they’re forgettable. I also wondered why a teenage girl in a coma in a hospital wasn’t dressed in a gown but left topless in bed.
The student characters were interchangeable, and the adults were more types than real characters. There’s the caring professor father figure who may be too friendly with the students, the well-meaning doctor and detective, and the disturbing school administrator. The story relies on one of those secret societies that meets late at night in robes and underground chambers, which I found distracting. Aren’t more realistic killers scarier?
Overall, the pacing is lackadaisical and the execution flat, although the art is well-done, easy to read and moody when needed. There are loose ends left undone and a distinct lack of explanation. The Awakening was written by Neal Shaffer with art by Luca Genovese.