Most pop-culture apocalypses crank up the volume, right? Whether it's alien invasions or natural disasters, the end of civilisation as we know it tends usher in a whole lot of noise pollution. So, the palpable silence left by mankind's near-extinction happens so quietly is one of the best things about The Massive.
Now, of course, you're not going to hear anything while reading this new comic by writer Brian Wood and artists Kristian Donaldson and Dave Stewart. It's on paper, after all. But the post-everything milieu that the trio ushers readers into feels eerily quiet.
The first issue of this Dark Horse-published series introduces readers to an Earth where a succession of freak ecological disasters have destroyed wildlife, coastlines and much of the world's socioeconomic structures. Navigating the seas of this broken world are the crew of the Kapital, led by Captain Callum Israel. Israel's the leader of the Ninth Wave eco-activist group and he's been looking to find the Massive, the Kapital's sister ship that's been mysteriously missing for years.
I love how the characters of the book are pulled from different nationalities, as it makes you think that the whole world's been affected by the series of catastrophes that are collectively called The Crash. The flashback sequences that offer glimpses of the breakdowns that crushed the planet come across as truly haunting. Donaldson's line work is sleek and sexy, with a real facility for drawing clothes, hair and facial expressions.
The humans drawn here feel passionate and expressive and Donaldson does great work with dialogue-heavy layouts. Stewart's muted palette doesn't feel make the fictional world feel dead, rather, the planet feels battered into submission. More poignantly, the Earth in The Massive doesn't feel like it's going to wake. These characters are stuck here and we'll have to watch.
In previous works like DMZ, Channel Zero and Northlanders, Brian Wood has previously demonstrated a unique ability to comment on societal changes through the eyes of his cast. Whether it's a latter-day civil war or a Viking battlefield, he chronicles the social order's cracks just after they've happened and excels at showing how human behaviour reels in the aftermath.
It's pretty inspired to take an analogue to controversial ecological groups like Earth First! and Greenpeace, throw them into a situation that bears out the logic driving their activism and show the existential diminishment that follows. If you wind up being right about what the systemic implosion of the earth's biodynamic systems would do to the planet, then it would really suck to be stuck in the shattered remains of what you once knew.
I can already tell that The Massive's going to offer a perceptive look at how the loneliness, paranoia and philosophical tensions of the book's premise play out amongst the comic's cast.
How do pacifists defend against predators? Do you bother sticking to ideals when no one's watching? How long can hope hold out when everything else has run dry? Already, these questions coalesce into the subtext of the first issue of The Massive and from this strong debut, it looks like the answers are going to be entertaining and thought-provoking. Pick it up tomorrow and prepare to be cast adrift.