You gotta love comics. I know I do. I’ve been reading them for over four decades. Sure, my tastes have changed quite a bit – back when I started, it was things like Richie Rich along with a diet of Archie and Jughead, but, only a few years later, I picked up Batman, Superman, and the occasional Spider-man or Fantastic Four. What always amazed me about graphic storytelling of such nature is that the playing field was immeasurably larger than anything done in television or movies. In facts, the stories in comic books seemed to have the same possible depth as did any good book so long as the writer didn’t take any short cuts in developing his world, his situations, and his characters.
Brian Wood is one such writer who doesn’t take short cuts. For that reason, his prose may be an acquired taste, but I think – when given the chance – he produces some great things that folks should be watching … and reading.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of character and plot. If you’re the kind of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last two paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
Life – as we know it – is gone. Earth has suffered some unexplainable ‘crash’ that brought about a rise of the sea levels, some horrific catastrophes of nature, and the near-extinction of mankind. Those who survive do so at their own peril, but the Ninth Wave conservation ship Kapital sails on with its own personal mission. A year ago, her sister ship – known as The Massive – completely disappeared and has never been heard from again. Kapital’s captain, Callum Israel, is bound and determined to find it again, and he’ll search wherever the seas still let him roam in order to bring about a reunion that appears destined to never take place.
Brian Wood’s work is, largely, so dense and inspired that I’ll admit I occasionally have trouble reading it installment by installment. That isn’t a shortcoming; rather, it’s just the opposite. His narrative can be so strong, so compelling that I just don’t have enough personal patience to read an issue and then wait thirty days for the next chapter. I want to know more now. I want to know what happens next now. I want to get further into it now. That ain’t a bad place to be as a reader, but it can be understandably disheartening.
So much of THE MASSIVE is a vast set-up for (hopefully) things to come. There’s ample reflection by all of the principles – there are as many back-stories at play here much like the first couple of seasons of ABC-TV’s program LOST – as well as a hearty recounting of just what the ‘crash’ was, what devastation it wrecked across our world, and what prospects there are for more of it in the future. But, try as it might, THE MASSIVE isn’t a tale so much about ‘endings’ as it is about ‘beginnings.’ This is a story about survival in a world that’s all but tapped its mortal players for mass extinction. Together, the crew of the Kapital carries on, embracing their mission, arguing the merits of how to do it best, and hoping and praying they won’t meet a grim fate before they learn why it is that the sea has spared their lives.
Don’t look for any quick answers. Instead, watch for heavy, hard knocks. THE MASSIVE isn’t about dangled carrots. It’s about what world remains after being struck by some very big sticks.
THE MASSIVE: VOLUME 1 is published by Dark Horse Comics. The story is written by Brian Wood; the art is by Kristian Donaldson and Garry Brown; the colors are by Dave Stewart; and the lettering is by Jared K. Fletcher. This collection opens with an excellent forward by Jamais Cascio, one that reminds us that the world never quite ends so much as its story goes on, whether we’re here to see it directly or not. Also – in the back – there’s a collection of a few shorts that appeared in Dark Horse Presents. This trade paperback bears a cover price of $19.99, a bargain when you consider the breadth of the tale told within.
HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION POSSIBLE. It’s amazing to watch any artist or storyteller at the top of his game, and Brian Wood easily strays into some dangerous, uncharted waters with THE MASSIVE: VOLUME 1. It’s the end of the world as we know it, but our story as a civilization is just beginning. Check this out while you still have the chance.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Dark Horse Comics provided me with an advance digital copy of THE MASSIVE: VOLUME 1 for the expressed purposes of completing this review.