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The Massive #10 Review
By Zak Edwards
March 25, 2013 - 20:46

Dark Horse Comics
Writer(s): Brian Wood
Penciller(s): Gary Erksine
Colourist(s): Jordie Bellaire
Letterer(s): Jared K. Flethcher
Cover Artist(s): J.P. Leon

“No side missions, no distractions, just stay on the signal, no matter what.”

While I can get pretty self-righteous about the insistence on efficient, plot-driven narratives, I have been thoroughly enjoying Brian Wood’s more focused story-telling in these past few issues of The Massive.  And it seems like he agrees, if I can take the above quote as meta-commentary.  This latest issue blends the overarching narrative with a meditation on how the world has been changing since the Crash, the environmental event that has caused the post-apocalyptic world these characters occupy.  Using these two story threads, Wood blends the meandering with purpose that culminates in yet another interesting and engaging issue.  The Massive remains one of my favourite books and proves Dark Horse Comics investment in creator-owned projects is letting some amazing stories be told.

Before I get into the issue proper, I would also like to mention how I enjoy that Wood puts most of the action into these epilogue moments on the final pages of issues.  Here, the political dimension of the book is reinforced by the exposition at the end and really draws attention to how Wood prefers character drama.  And his characters are brilliant, so much so that the second last sentence, “Unable to justify forcing them to remain, he diverts to the Panama Canal Zone and lets them go,” becomes a heart-breaking moment of sympathy.  For all his complicated politics that somewhat rely on simple assumptions, Callum Israel is a compelling and empathic captain and protagonist.  He remains a mystery in many instances, but also a character faced with difficult decisions.  Rather than giving depth to the story, Wood’s epilogues give depth to the characters and our engagement with them.  So while the central tension of the book, at first glance, appears to be relegated to plot summary, it actually takes on a new dimension because of Wood’s focus.  It invests readers in these complex characters.  Characters who all feel like they have an ‘in’ with Israel, who feel they know him better, and I can’t help but smile at my own belief in that same sentiment.  I feel like I know him better than all of them but, of course, this is just as silly as Mag calling Mary a groupie to claim ownership of Israel.  But this shows the investment we have in these characters.

Wood also takes a page from Y: The Last Man, where the details of how the world operates now, based heavily in history and consideration of current events, become great focal points.  Here, the border tensions in South America drive the action plot, interspersed with detailed information.  The world Wood has created is our own speculated, but in a way that is interesting and feels grounded in careful thought and insight.  Wood enjoys looking at how we interact, and the book benefits from these moments when they are integrated into the plot and feel of the story.  And, when those whom Israel dropped off engage him in political debates, Wood’s well constructed world can give readers insight into what these characters must weigh in their decisions.

Art-wise, the book’s switching of palettes and style for the information pages and general action works wonders, as does the lettering, which bleeds the story together to connect their importance.  Legendary artists Gary Erksine is responsible for this issue’s art and, while quite brilliant for most, can dip into cartoon in a way that jars the careful realism Wood is attempting.  However rare, these moments are jarring, but Erksine’s generally expressive and grounded visuals still add to the story and its world.

Grade: 8.5    Joyous to read, joyous to look at. Joyous to contemplate.

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