The Massive is Brian Wood’s new post-crash environmentalist book for Dark Horse. It tells the story of a group of environmental activists and their search for a sister ship lost at sea. This takes place after the end of the world, also turning the story into a search for meaning.
We follow the story of Callum Israel and his crew, comprising the activist cell the Ninth Wave. Israel isn’t your typical environmentalist, with a shady background as a mercenary. At the same time, this background is what makes him effective in leading the Ninth Wave and organizing direct actions. He’s accompanied by Mary, also his lover and an old teammate from his mercenary days named Mag. Their back stories were explored in Dark Horse Comics Presents shorts, so readers of that anthology will already have some familiarity to them. There’s some supporting crew and a lot more implied, but happen to be missing. It seems that Callum and team are on the Kapital, the smaller ship of their fleet, while the search for their missing sister ship, the Massive. This mystery, along with the cryptic end of the world, are the driving forces behind the story.
The first issue is split into sequences from the present and glimpses into the past. In the crew’s present time we see a tense situation as they prepare for potentially hostile contacts. The flashbacks to past events are themselves split, with the first half detailing the events that led to the downfall of the world. The second half follows the personal story of the crew and the hard decisions that they find themselves faced with. After all, when the world’s ending what place does a conservationist have? For these historical moments Kristian Donaldson shifts his art style to hazy scenes with high contrast, coloured sepia by Dave Stewart. It immediately gives the impression of archival news paper clippings, helping to differentiate the shifting time frames and give historical weight to the proceedings. The book also features a lot of bonus material, including Callum Israel’s captain’s log and further clues to the mystery of The Massive.
While the pace may seem slow, this can be attributed to the tense waiting and vast emptiness of the oceans. The mood remains tense until action breaks out and by the end of the book you’ll be surprised by how much information Wood manages to convey. Because of the political nature of the book, as well as the post-catastrophe setting, The Massive will inevitably be compared to the recently finished DMZ. While I can understand the comparison on a base level, The Massive is a very different book. Instead of the bombed-out shell of the world’s most densely populated city, the oceans provide wide empty spaces and a serene loneliness. DMZ can also be described as Matty gradually finding a mission, whereas the crew of the Ninth Wave have lost theirs. Nonetheless, if you were a fan of the aforementioned book, then The Massive will be a logical continuation for your Brian Wood fix.