The Massive

Written by Brian Wood with art by Kristian Donaldson and Gary Brown and colours by Dave Stewart

Published by Dark Horse Comics

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The Massive is the tale of a group of eco-activists called the Ninth Wave and their struggles as the World collapses around them. Spurred by a string of environmental disasters, society is bordering on collapse and the crew of the environmental-action ship Kapital (think the Sea Shepherd) battle to survive, find their friends and keep their ideals.

Because the Massive is also the name of a boat, a boat that barely appears in this story. Contact was lost during a huge storm and the Kapital has been searching for her sister ship ever since. A search that is hampered by the fact the world has descended into chaos. 

This could be the smartest book that Brian Wood has ever written. Amongst a body of work that contains Demo, DMZ and Northlanders that is saying a hell of a lot. I’m a big fan of Wood and his political thrillers and very glad that this time he has expanded his scope to the entire world.

massive1p1jpg-Kristian Donaldson

At times Brian Wood reminds me of Warren Ellis (not too surprising they worked together at Marvel early on in Brian’s career). He creates these strong characters and then throws them into some very tricky situations. There is a strong Global Frequency vibe from the Massive, which is never a bad thing. Here too is a team of highly skilled and dedicated individuals brought together to save the world. The difference is in the Massive it is too late, the world has already gone to hell and they need to save themselves while still holding on to their ideals.

Because this is also a story about character. How it is formed and how it can be tested. How what we have done can become who we are. Callum Israel, the Captain of the Kapital and leader of Ninth Wave is an ex-mercenary who listened when the ocean spoke to him and then dedicated his life to protecting it.

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Artist Kristian Donaldson has an almost clinical cleanness to his linework but one that he never allows to become sterile. He excels at drawing the technical stuff that this book is stuffed with: boats, guns, oil rigs and sinking cityscapes. But he still manages to imbue his characters with real life, warmth, and great haircuts, (the selection and quality of the hair do’s in this comic wouldn’t look out-of-place in Melbourne’s most hipster riddled cafe).

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Gary Brown takes over art duties for the second story arc. He has a rougher sketchier style than Donaldson but it has great energy and at times reminds me of R.M. Guera’s work on Scalped.

Colourist Dave Stewart is generally regarded as being the best in the biz and has a string of Eisner awards to prove it. The book relies on flashback to fill in the back stories of these characters and the colouring does a vital job of letting the reader know the when we are looking back through time. Stewart changes the colour palette for the flashbacks and uses a pastel wash over everything to tie it together.

Captions are used well to keep the reader informed of just where the action is happening. The story whizzes all over the globe and I loved how new locations are indicated with latitude and longitude as well as by name. New characters are introduced with a tidy list of their name, date and place of birth. This is a comic that could fall victim to over complexity but the creative team fight that well with the tight structure they keep in place.

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Part of what I love most about the Massive is that it feels like a global book. The action takes place all over the world and the crew of the Kapital is multi-national. To those of us who live in Not-America it is nice to see, as it can feel as though the American comic book industry has no idea we are out here. Wood addresses this directly in the script with a great exchange on the Antarctic ice that says much about how he sees Americas role in the world.

The constantly changing locations suit the rotating roster of artists and it doesn’t feel like a disconnect when we get a new penciller. We also get to have the mighty JP Leon on covers. I love his art more every time I see it ( it also reminds me to build up the courage to write about the Winter Men).

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Should I buy it? If you like Brian Wood then it’s a must. If you haven’t tried his work yet then this could be the start of something beautiful. Without really meaning to I have accumulated over Brian Wood 20 trades and I still haven’t picked up any of his Marvel, Star Wars or Conan work. The man has quite the back catalogue of fine comic books.

This collection is tidy package. You not only get first six issues but also the preview short stories that ran in Dark Horse Presents and fill in the back story on our main characters.

Next time: A tale of a cloned baby Saviour for the 21st Century. Punk Rock Jesus by Mr Sean Murphy.

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