The Massive #1-11 (Dark Horse Comics, $3.50 each) is a highly engrossing series that’s probably the best entry in the relatively new (to comics, anyway) sub-genre of eco-thrillers. Written by Brian Wood with art on various issues by Kristian Donaldson, Garry Brown, Gary Erskine and Declan Shalvey, The Massive takes place after a yearlong series of ecological disasters collectively known as The Crash has radically changed the Earth’s surface. Rising oceans have put major cities under water while other disasters have knocked out power, technology and communications with large portions of the world.
In this bleak setting is Callum Israel, leader of a pacifist, direct-action marine conservation organization called The Ninth Wave. Based on a converted warship known as the Kapital, Israel and his international crew are both struggling to survive and to continue their mission of conserving the world’s oceans as best they can. The series starts with an over-arching mystery, as the Kapital’s sister ship, The Massive, has gone missing for months. Israel believes The Massive is still out there, somewhere, and the search for the ship is ongoing. In between that, there are pirates, utopian communities and a constant need to resupply the ship’s food, water and fuel stores.
This series benefits immensely from Wood’s research and his broad, international view. The characters have complex but believable backgrounds and hail from all over the world. They include first mate Lars, the can-do Kenyan Mary (also Israel’s lover), and Mag, a former colleague of Israel’s from his days with a Blackwater-style private security (a.k.a. Mercenary) group. No one is quite what they seem and their stories and viewpoints are revealed naturally through the series, offering a welcome relief from extensive contrived exposition.
The series is so far broken down into three-issue arcs, though the individual issues stand up on their own very well, again providing relief from the unfortunate norm in comics publishing. The art is overall very good, with Donaldson setting the tone in the first three issues with most of the rest of the series drawn in a similar and satisfyingly gritty style by Brown. The colors by Dave Stewart are a major draw, as are the covers and backmatter pages, which have Wood’s very welcome design fingerprints all over them.
If there’s a flaw to the series, it would be the deliberate pacing. A fascinating premise and characters like this cry out for stories that are ambitiously broad and that just plain move a bit faster. The Massive is a bit of a slow burn so far, but it’s a consistently fascinating and satisfying one that I look forward to seeing build itself up into an even better series over time.
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