The Massive #4 © 2012 Brian Wood

One of the things I love most about comics is the sheer breadth of subjects and genres that are explored. When people unfamiliar with the medium think about comics what is likely to come to mind is superheroes and heroines, capes and cowls. Now I like a bit of over-the-top superhero battle action as much as the next (comic book) geek, but I’m thankful that there is a lot more to comics than that. So much more.

Take this week’s pick for example. Brian Wood, fresh from wrapping up his historical Viking epic Northlanders, brings us another sprawling behemoth of a comic, both in themes and scope. Fittingly he called it The Massive.

The Massive follows Ninth Wave, an environmental direct action group, in the aftermath of a huge worldwide environmental disaster referred to as The Crash, which takes place in the very near future. We’re four issues in now and the series is settling down nicely. So far Wood is presenting The Massive in a similar way to the final issues of Northlanders – in three-part story arcs with overarching themes running through them. In issue #4 the art duties are taken over by Garry Brown.

The first arc was an introduction to the main characters and the world they inhabit. It was no less exciting for this however. Wood managed to pack a lot of action in to the first three issues and although he introduced a lot of characters, settings and themes, it was deftly handled and never felt overwhelming.

The Massive interior page – © 2012 Brian Wood

In this issue the action shifts on to dry land, with most of the comic taking place in Mogadishu, or The Mog. The landscape of the world has been fundamentally altered by the series of environmental disasters and so have a lot of the world’s accepted social and political norms and standards. It appears however that this part of Africa is relatively unchanged, ruled as it is by a few ruthless tribal leaders.

It is in this environment that Cal, the nominal leader of Ninth Wave, has gone to find much-needed supplies for his ship The Kapital. Despite his ability to blend into the environment Cal is taken by force to meet one of the new leaders of the post-crash world. He strikes a deal to obtain fuel, and also gains safe entry into the docks at Mogadishu whenever the ship needs to trade for supplies.

After striking the deal Cal heads back to the docks. The panels showing him walking through the dusty back streets and alleyways of The Mog, and the street scenes later on, give a real sense of place. Brown is ably assisted by colourist Dave Stewart, who has been doing a fantastic job on this comic, and here he excels. The sweltering heat almost burns your fingers as you turn the pages.

The Massive interior page – © 2012 Brian Wood

Cal comes across a shark fin in the street, which leads him to an unwelcome encounter with Arkady, an ex-member of the military contract team Blackbel PMC, which Cal walked away from over a decade ago. The reunion starts out awkwardly and ends disastrously, with a gun pointed at Cal’s head, and a threat from Arkady that will potentially lead to much violence for Cal and Ninth Wave.

The panel in which Arkady insists that Cal accepts his gift of the shark fin is spectacular. Garry Brown cleverly frames the two characters so that Cal is on the far right, pushed to the side. Arkady takes up a good half of the panel and you can feel his menacing persona pushing Cal, overpowering him, so Cal is made to look like he is almost cowering. It’s a brilliantly effective panel, drawn expertly by Brown.

Later, Cal manages to get away from Arkady without being harmed, and here we again glimpse the vulnerability that lies below Cal’s tough exterior, as he steadies himself against an alley wall. It is the quiet moments like this that make The Massive a truly great comic.

The cover by J.P Leon is really impressive; all the different elements within the comic are represented in the beautifully illustrated tableau. I’ve not seen much of Leon’s work before but it reminded me of a Francavilla cover, and that’s no bad thing. I’ll certainly be keeping an eye out for him in the future.

There are so many good comics coming out every single week and today was no exception. Several comics could have been worthy picks for Comic of the Week, but The Massive, for so many reasons, stole it.

Published by Mark Brassington

Father and Husband. Works in Corporate Banking. Loves Books, Comics, Cycling, Music, Games, going to the Gym and Writing.

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6 Comments

    1. Thanks Jo. I’m really enjoying this comic. I saw the trailer – it looked really cool – good music too. I’d like to see more trailers like this for comics.

  1. Just finished this weeks comics. Really enjoyed this issue, I’m going to go back and re-read the first 3 issues as so much happens in the first 3 issues that I need to refresh my memory. Well written review and summed it up nicely.

    There was a lot this week, all the Valiant titles were wonderful as usual. Batman and Batgirl #0 were good insights into the past. One title that stood out for me was Masters of the Universe #2 but I think overall Avengers Vs X-Men #11 would have been mine – so much happened and seeing Cyclops fall like that and become the Dark Phoenix was a pretty big deal. I’m looking forward to this wrapping up and Marvel NOW kicking in and how they all move past this (if they can).

    1. Thanks Mark – I’m doing the same (re-reading the first 3 issues). I think Brian Wood’s comics generally reward repeated readings and The Massive is no different. I can’t wait to see where he goes with it.

      I’m enjoying the Valiant titles I’m reading – Archer & Armstrong stands out for me. It’s great fun. Batman #0 was really good. I liked the back-up story showing the different characters who will be affected by Batman’s actions, the people he inspires.

  2. Punk Rock Jesus #3 was another fantastic issue by Sean Murphy, I also really enjoyed The Massive #4 (now I’m caught up) and The Creep #1 (reviewed here – http://goo.gl/0eEaQ). I would have found it incredibly difficult to pick between these titles.

    Conan The Barbarian #8 (reviewed here – http://goo.gl/uzJ4n) suffered in Becky Cloonan’s absence. While Before Watchmen: Comedian #3 disappointed once again. Azzarello’s interpretation of Moore’s character is jarring; presented as a ‘good ol’boy’ but capable of extreme brutality and depravity, brought about by the Vietnam War.

    This week will also prove tricky with the release of the next batch of DCs New 52 zero issues including Batwoman, Nightwing and Wonder Woman, as well as Mind MGMT #5, Godzilla Half Century War #2, Revival #3 and Daredevil #18.

    1. I think Punk Rock Jesus is one of the best titles coming out at the moment. I love Murphy’s art and the fact that he can write so well too is astonishing. I picked up The Creep #1 as well and really enjoyed it. It’s my type of comic and written and illustrated by really talented creators.

      I agree with you about Before Watchmen: Comedian #3 – it just doesn’t hit the mark for me.

      Any week with Daredevil in it is a good week for me! Also looking forward to Revival #3 and Ghost #0 – Phil Noto’s art looks gorgeous as usual.

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