Brian Wood’s The Massive has been the fascinating story of the remnants of international civilizations in the wake of a year long series of catastrophic natural disasters that have resulted in the decimation of society as we knew it. It’s also been the story of an ex-private military contractor named Callum Israel, who grew to hate his job and tried to find a new direction by getting involved with Ninth Wave, a proactive environmentalist group that some labeled as eco-terrorists. It’s been gritty, spare, and heavy, and undeniably realistic in its portrayals of what humanity will do to survive, and in the struggle of people of conscience trying to figure out what to do in a world where their central mission – the preservation of the environment – no longer matters.
Captain Israel’s got a lot of problems. His primary concern, The Kapital’s search for its missing sister ship, The Massive, keeps proving fruitless and rather mysterious. His girlfriend Mary is gone off to who-knows-where, and he’s finding out more and more that she might be even more mysterious than the missing Massive. The Kapital, his boat, has been bombed and is in need of repairs, and his fellow ex-PMC Mag Nagendra has been taken by a mercenary named Arkady, and Israel’s had to chase them down to Prague. Oh, and he occasionally has to stop to hack up blood because he’s dying of cancer.
The Massive #21 ramps up a new element to the series – that of something beyond the realm of real-life possibility. There is apparently something about Mary – and that something is looking more and more supernatural all the time. There is little known about her past, she seems too young for the experience she’s had, and a handful of issues back, she seemed to be able to avert a nuclear disaster just by thinking about it – a development that was surprising and confusing for this book so known for dealing with the factual and sometimes even the mundane. Case in point – most issues of this series occasionally have these straightforward, dry, yet interesting history lessons not only about the events of The Crash (the name for that year of disasters) but regional history in general, and this issue is the first time I can remember where that narration actually seemed to express a hint of individual personality, as if it was from a character and not Wood himself dropping knowledge.
This is still an interesting series that doesn’t talk down to the reader, but the jury is still out on this direction. This is likely what Wood was building toward all along, given that the characters are now realizing that The Crash, The Massive and Mary are somehow all related, but part of what was so appealing about The Massive was that it dealt with potential realities without genre staples like super-powers, and that might get cheapened a little by this. Then again, it’s a different sort of mystery for people steeped in harsh reality to start to uncover. It may turn out just fine… storywise, that is. Everything looks like it’s going to be an eternal hell for these characters, and Garry Brown’s dirty, gritty, moody artwork helps bring the weight of this ruined world across.
The Massive is a book that will likely read better when collected, although one imagines you can say that about any comic book series ever. But in this case, it’s a lot about tone and mood, and disrupting that on a monthly basis can have a deleterious effect. But when the trades come, check it out.