Comics Reviews: The Massive, vol 1

April 26, 2013 § Leave a comment

Take Whale Wars and get rid of the reality show, the whaling industry, the whales, and most of industrial civilization, and I think you’d end up with something very close to The Massive. Writer Brian Wood (DMZ, Northlanders, X-Men) teases the series as an exploration of what it means to be an environmentalist once said environment is completely and irrevocably fucked. But while the first volume features beautiful art and sets a strong tone, nobody ever really gets around to any environmentalism.

Volume 1 of The Massive is instead a series of character sketches, as we are introduced to the crew of the cheekily named Kapital and the new, post-apocalyptic world they inhabit. We meet Captain Callum Israel, an ex-mercenary who grew a conscience; his mysterious yet incredibly capable girlfriend Mary; first mate Mag, a no-fucks-given soldier of fortune and passion who has suffered the effects of globalization first-hand; obligatory tech dude Georg; and my early favorite, Ryan—a sweet Minnesotan punk forced to confront her privilege. It’s an intriguing enough enesemble, and they’re given plenty of opportunities to display excellence as they scour the far-flung corners of the Pacific Ocean gathering supplies, fighting off profiteers, and searching for their lost sister ship, the titular Massive.

The Massive unfolds at a pace reminiscent of the ocean; at times placid and meditative, then unexpectedly turbulent. Dave Stewart’s moody color palette matches the story perfectly, creating a fatastically moist, restless tone—dark without the implied overwrought grit. However, the main attraction in The Massive is the exploration of its uniquely built world.

The post-apocalypse of The Massive is important to me in the way it denigrates the apocalypse itself as just another thing that happened. When civilization collapses (or as the primitivists are fond of saying, “when the lights go out”), there will still be people with needs beyond finding food and killing zombies. There will even still be an environment to be studied, protected, hopefully even enjoyed.

Sure, the world of The Massive is a good bit more grim than the one I live in now, but it doesn’t trip over itself in the way that Mad Max, Waterworld, or any number of zombie stories might. When Hong Kong is flooded, its residents build a brand new city out of garbage and shipping containers, floating on top of the old one. Volume 1 of The Massive feels like it has accomplished in its exposition all that most post-apocalyptic stories ever attempt–securing supplies and ensuring short-term survival—to allow its broader mission of post-ecological environmentalism to unfold in the coming chapters.

Or, at least, I hope so. Despite the sweet and slowly churned worldbuilding going on, it seems like the best days for The Massive, and possibly the world it inhabits, are ahead of it.

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