The Massive – The 2015 Weekly Writer Challenge: Brian Wood (Part 2)
52 weeks. 52 different writers. 2 trade paperbacks or hardcovers a week. Each week I’ll take a look at a different writer and read two different collected editions from within that person’s repertoire to help in the examination of their work.
Brian Wood is a man who has worked for plenty of publishers over his career. Ranging for Marvel to DC, Image to Dark Horse, and even a few smaller ones in between. Wood is perhaps at his best though when he is free to write whatever type of comic he wants. He manages to be one of the most fascinating and engaging world builders in comics today, using his stories to show us where the world could be heading or even showing us how life would look life following the end of the world. Regardless of what type of story he’s trying to tell, one can always rest assured that Wood will create the richest world possible for the reader to enjoy.
The Massive Volume 1 – Black Pacific
In a post-Crash world, where a series of natural disasters have uprooted the social, economic, political, and geological layouts of the world, an environmentalist group, Ninth Wave, travels by sea to the ends of the Earth. Traveling via a ship, The Kapital, Captain Callum Israel searches for their missing sister ship, The Massive. The crew of the Kapital search for fresh water, food, and fuel along the way while contending with mercenaries, pirates, and even environmental hazards that threaten their pacifist ways. Callum, a former member of the Blackbell PMC, butts heads with other members of the Kapital over his decision to use non-violent means to survive in a world where the rules have dramatically changed. With the help of Mags, a fellow former mercenary, and Mary, a mysterious yet enigmatic women, Callum seeks to push Ninth Wave’s ideals out towards the rest of the crippled world in the hopes of making a true difference in light of these natural disasters.
The Massive by Brian Wood is what I would refer to as a grounded Sci-Fi/disaster epic, being a somewhat more believable version of the film “The Day After Tomorrow” (and considerably more enjoyable for what that’s worth). This series is just another example of why Brian Wood is hands down one of the best world builders in all of comics, much like I stated in my previous post about him just the other day. With this story we get a reality we can see coming, with the increase of natural disasters occurring around the world it’s hard to not feel that a story like this one is simply foreshadowing our unfortunate future. A bleak outlook, I’m sure, but one that still feels ever-present and honest especially after reading this collection.
Our world appears to be on the brink of an ecological collapse when it comes to The Massive, as we see the ice in Antarctica breaking apart for good or places like Hong Kong completely changing due to massive flooding. How humans interact with any land mass, body of water or natural part of the Earth has dramatically changed in light of a sudden wave of natural disasters that completely change the state and function of many facets of our lives. The Massive shows you what happens after civilization collapses, showing how people survive in the face of tragedy. Where Wood really strikes gold with this story isn’t in how he approaches his characters, it’s in how he gives the readers glimpses of what happened while showing them the new rules of life that are instituted as a result. All the way throughout this story, Wood will cut between the present and future, showing us the conflicts our lead characters face while cutting in scenes depicting what type of disaster struck places like New York, Hong Kong, Somalia, etc., giving you a genuinely chilling fictional history. These incredibly brief glimpses are typically in one panel with one to two captions describing what happened but they feel vivid to the reader, with the sharpness of Wood’s words being enough to impart a feeling of tragedy upon them.
The main focus of the series isn’t what happened to the world but what’s happening within this changed world now, while Ninth Wave, aboard the Kapital, traverse it in search of its missing sister ship, The Massive. The reader follows Callum Israel, a middle-aged former mercenary turned pacifist, who founded Ninth Wave. On top of our glimpses into the disasters that changed the world, we get glimpses into the past of Callum and his fellow crew members, enlightening the reader to what makes these characters tick. You watch as Callum goes from a focused mercenary to being a man who becomes sickened by that line of work. Wood shows the readers a logical explanation as to why Callum is the man he is today and does it with seeming ease. You get so immersed into Callum and his team as humans that you actually start to forget the whole series focuses on finding the missing Massive, which is nothing if not a good thing. This results in plenty of the stories being broken down into smaller arcs, lasting sometimes just a single issue as you see the struggles that any character faces on just a single day. Wood manages to find plenty of thrilling conflicts for the characters to contend with whilst they search for their missing sister ship.
In a series like the Massive, that finds strength in examining the new rules of a changed world, it should be no surprise that Wood and the readers get to visit a wide array of different settings. Each issue is essentially a new adventure, either continuing the present day narrative thread of trying to find The Massive or giving you a glimpse of a past adventure Callum and the crew have experienced. In one issue we’ll see a bit of Somalia before the world fell apart, then the story will cut to the crew discovering a flooded Hong Kong and how that changed the economy of the remaining parts of that city. A few issues later, the crew heads to Antarctica to get ice to melt for water, spending the entire issue in the snowy terrain, but a few issues before that the crew was in a sunny and warm setting. There are so many different areas that are explored in this volume that there’s no way for me to even remember them all as I write this article. It’s easier to just say that you get a great range of different settings across this entire first volume, never feeling as though you’re overloaded with all the new sights you see but still enthralled enough that you want to see even more.
Collects: The Massive #1-6, material from Dark Horse Presents #8-10
Best Character: Callum Israel
Best Line Of Dialogue/Caption: “I’ve been on so many sides of a situation like this. The fact that I’m here again is almost comical. How did we sleep at night, you and I, working for Blackbell?” – Callum Israel
Best Scene/Moment: Mary shows off some of her skills – Issue 5.
Best Issue: Issue 5. Issue five is an interesting one as it focuses entirely on Mary, a mysterious women on the Kapital, and Ryan, a self-obsessed American female, as they travel to Antarctica in hopes of getting pieces of ice for fresh water on the Kapital. This is an issue that not only has stunning art all the way through but is rather tense in its approach. It presents more questions than answers but also shows that there aren’t many rules in this new world.
Why You Should Read It: This is a story about the apocalypse that actually seems believable. The world ends and keeps on living, showing how characters survive in this changed land. I can say it one hundred times over that Brian Wood is simply an amazing world builder and he does it again with this series. The plotting can be a bit obtuse at times but what you get are some truly enjoyable stories detailing the life and times of the members of Ninth Wave. It’s rich, rewarding, and above all else, surprisingly effective in its approach. This is a story about how the greatest danger to Earth is Earth itself and it’d be a damn shame if you missed it.