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It’s getting harder and harder for me to get excited about end of the world stories. They’re everywhere, and most of them are either painfully derivative or require such a massive suspension of disbelief that heavy drinking is almost essential to follow where they’re leading. But all that means that when an apocalyptic story with a little meat and a little inventiveness does come along, it’s all the more rewarding. Welcome to The Massive.

“What does it mean to be an environmentalist after the world’s already ended?”

This is where The Massive begins, with a question that declares the apocalypse more than a spectacle. In this story, it’s a foundation for a new imagining of moral codes, and they’re not just codes about the human race. Callum Israel is the leader of a radical environmentalist group called Ninth Wave, adrift in a world that’s been altered by a series of cataclysmic events now known as The Crash. Society’s still out there somewhere, in some form, but Ninth Wave has problems of its own. Their two-ship fleet has been separated by erratic storms. Israel and his small crew, short on provisions and options and with bands of pirates roaming the seas, are using what energy they have left to steer their ship – the Kapital – in search of The Massive: the group’s larger ship that seems to have vanished without a trace.

From page one Wood is setting himself up for some daring writing, in part because this is a comic chronicling the end of the world that resists the urge to become all about the tidal waves and the earthquakes and the action-packed escapes from disaster. You won’t find that kind of spectacle here, nor will you find overcomplicated and ultimately implausible ideas about how the world reorganizes itself in the wake of such things. Wood is asking the more important questions here, the more human ones. When the world ends, what happens to the things you believed in when the world was still holding together?

Israel and the crew of The Massive spend this first issue searching for their friends, but also searching for whatever is left of their cause. Israel himself remarks that, with all the rising waters around the world, the environment for sea life might actually improve. Then again, with all the oil tankers that could go belly up, maybe it won’t. But how much emphasis should a worry like that have over, say, a worry over where your family is, or your friends, or your cat? There’s something immediately brilliant at work in the conceptualizing of this first issue. Rather than turning their eyes to the “ordinary” men and women dealing with the end of the world, the creators here want to know what goes on inside the heads of the people who were fighting like hell to save the world before it ended. Does the cause survive? Does it evolve? Is it even still worthwhile?

These big ideas are cemented by the remarkably emotional art Donaldson brings to the book. Here again, what could have been a book filled with panels chronicling destruction instead becomes a book about humans struggling under the weight of new responsibilities they don’t yet fully understand. And then, when the action ratchets up, it does with real artistic fire. Dave Stewart’s colors heighten and enhance what Donaldson’s doing here, and the effect is something that’s compelling without ever feeling overstuffed or gaudy. It’s a very well-composed book.

The Massive is a comic stuffed with potential. There are big questions here that beg for big answers, and Wood and company seem to have the confidence to meet that challenge.

(The Massive #1 is in comic stores June 13)

 

Category: Comics, reviews

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