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The Massive #13 Review

By Zak Edwards
July 6, 2013 - 13:52

When Brian Wood started The Massive, he said he wanted there to be an almost non-existent break between the monthly publication of his acclaimed Vertigo series DMZ and this latest project.  The Massive, it would seem, is a spiritual successor to his previous work and in many ways that makes complete sense.  Both are disaster narratives, with DMZ being a more political disaster than The Massive’s ‘Event,’ and both share a certain optimism in the face of overwhelming nihilism.  Take, for example, when the protagonist of DMZ discovers those delicious restaurants on Manhattan's rooftops, how there was good to be found even in the worst of circumstances.  That optimism has found its way into The Massive, right at the point that the leader has hit his lowest point yet.

Last issue culminated in the discovery of the titular Massive, the ship Callum Israel and his crew have been chasing for the entire series, abandoned and all but destroyed.  Here, Wood shows the fallout: Israel decides to stop “merely surviving” and instead be more active, to “clean up our messes... fix things from now on.”  Israel himself, however, continues making poor decisions.  The new mission focus is lofty to say the least, more than a little dependent on a sort of Gaia Earth Mother who can “heal itself,” but also shows some great character work.  While it may seem like a turning point for both Callum and his crew, the pursuit of a nuclear submarine into the notoriously sovereign American waters shows some old mistakes with the new mission.  Callum is still reckless, a classic Freudian death wish, but mixed with an environmental agenda and a road to Hell paved with good intentions.  The rising tensions between him and his dwindling crew continue to expose this death wish, ignoring advice and forging on ahead, it’s curious to see how rounded characters even with relatively little ‘screen time’ are emerging from this conflict, from Ryan’s attempt to abandon ship to mag’s increasingly militaristic approach.  Underlying all of Callum's attempts at doing good, at finding this optimism in the post-Event world, is a concern for viability, not so much a cynical, empty critique, but genuine interest in the ability for improvement while taking the capacity for granted.  Ultimately hopeful, yet strangely eschewing the 'grim and gritty' realism that dominates and sidetracks so many comic series.

Of course, one of the best aspects of this issue, the one The Massive is most overtly sharing with DMZ in this return to New York, is the commentary on contemporary American culture, from the fierce sovereignty (hard not to read the increasing anti-immigrant stances and policies into these moments), the quick abandonment of New York (a curious inversion of the central assumption of DMZ: that people would stay), and most topically, drones.  How and why America conducts itself in the “post-event” world bears striking similarities to this series spiritual predecessor, and such moments are at once brilliant commentaries and gripping tensions within the story itself.  On the surface, The Massive is a sparse and beautiful comic series, aware of how it is read and capable of holding interest and tension throughout a story more concerned with how things happen than what exactly happens.  All of that is true, but by weaving together themes consistent in much of Wood’s work, from the transient Local to his more recent work on sovereignty in Ultimate X-Men, The Massive acts as some of Wood’s most mature work and the medium’s capacity to weave genre storytelling with larger concerns.  I’ve said this almost every time I review this series, but Brian Wood and Dark Horse comics are actively changing comics for those willing to seek them out.  Hopefully the popularity of this series will help The Massive be the game-changer it deserves to be.

Grade: A    Brian Wood’s most fully realized work, layered and beautiful.

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Last Updated: May 19, 2020 - 12:25

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