REVIEW: The Massive #1

Written by BRIAN WOOD
Art by KRISTIAN DONALDSON
Colors by DAVE STEWART
Letters by JARED K. FLETCHER

The Massive #1 opens in the not-so-distant future after a global phenomenon of epic proportions. From rising water levels to tsunamis, humankind’s way of life has changed drastically, and this first issue picks up somewhere in the scattered attempt to rebuild society. Readers are introduced to the crew of The Kapital and its captain, Israel Callum, as it seeks out its sister ship, The Massive, which has mysteriously gone missing. It seems, then, Brian Wood is setting readers up with a sort of dystopian science fiction mystery where the search for the missing crewmates will provide the initial vehicle for this new series’ initial plot, but one can’t help but wonder where the story will go once they reunite given the state of world affairs.

In many regards, The Massive #1 possesses a feel something along the lines Lost where there was a slow build up of tension before the audience experienced a release through conflict or resolution of some strange sort. The Massive differs, however, as it does not provide readers with any sort of substantive resolution despite a brief encounter with a small patrol of roving pirates; instead, it is focused more intently on building background about what lead to the current state of the world as well as some personal history for the captain and his crew. Further, Wood sows seeds for future conflict between the Callum and his shipmates through his intimate relations with Mary as well as his non-violent stance in a world that necessitates the use of violence in order to survive. This hearkens to early episodes of Lost where viewers could immediately see ways sex and violence would cross over and lead to conflict between the various islanders. Although the first issue of The Massive is a slow-paced read, one should recognize Wood is attempting to create a comic with massive potential—pun intended! To do so successfully requires writers to fully develop the world their characters inhabit, and considering the drastic changes Wood is making to this world from our own, The Massive#1 is a necessary step in building this foundation.

With regards to the visual aspect of the book, Kristian Donaldson’s art for The Massive#1 is consistently well detailed for many of technical aspects of the naval subject matter. His strongest work presents itself in those sequences depicting nautical landscapes. From ships nearly capsizing to profile shots of battleships, Donaldson’s ability to capture these realistic elements supports the general feel of the world Wood is developing.

The one element of Donaldson’s art that was less compelling, however, would be with the depiction of the crewmates. Mary is seems to be the strongest character on the ship as presented in this first issue, yet her facial expressions hardly register any sort of significant change from her casual interactions on the ship’s bridge to her conflict with the patrolling pirates. Since survivor stories place focus primarily on the conflict and turmoil each individual experiences, a greater attention to expression would go a long way in adding to the reader’s ability to experience the tension Wood is attempting to build. To be clear, the art isn’t done poorly by any means; however, it would certainly be strengthened with an increased attention to the ways these individuals could communicate to one another non-verbally.

Award-winning colorist Dave Stewart continues to demonstrate why he is one of the premier artists in his ability to either blanket or selectively fill elements from a panel or page with a specific shade to communicate time, place, and/or mood to his readers without overwhelming the subject matter.

Overall, some fans might struggle with The Massive#1 due to its slow build up and lack of closure. However, readers familiar with the quality Brian Wood has produced in the past should give this series a shot, as it is clear this is only the opening act of a much larger storyline. Fans of successful real-life, dystopian series like Brian K. Vaughan’s Y: The Last Man and ABC’s hit show Lost understand works of this sort need to be fully developed from the onset, and given more time, this could be one of those great new “sleeper hits.”

 WRITING: 4.5/5
ART: 3.5/5
OVERALL: 4/5

About Forrest Helvie

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