Friday, September 28, 2012

The Massive: A review

Brian Wood's (lead writer) The Massive (#1#2#3 reviewed) is a comic book series set in the near future after a series of dramatic somewhat mysterious ecological catastrophes.  It is set on the Kapital, a small ship owned by the activist environmental group, Ninth Wave, and captained by Callum Israel.  It is a post war, post-crash, post disaster, post-everything world where their previous idealism is starting to look a little out of place.  This is a flip on some of the earlier international reviews, we have an American thinking about what a collapse in the rest of the world might look like.

Cover to #2, choosen because it looked more apocalyptic - The city is Hong Kong.
Brian Wood is well known within the comic world as an "indie" superstar, or at least presence.  His most famous work appears to be DMZ,  an apocalypse-in-progress set in Manhattan after a massive militia-style uprising.  The publication of this series by Dark Horse Comics seems to be bringing the "indie" more into the mainstream.   I saw a reviewer comment to this effect, but my own experience confirms the statement.  When I bought number one and two through E-bay because I had a hard time figuring out which comic book venders were legitimate, and could not find it at Amazon at that time.  While there is a bit of the comic book action adventure sensiblity to the preceedings, the author has done his research, and the look and feel are excellent.
Cover of first issue, showing Kapital.  Regardless of cover it is a trawler, not an ice breaker.

The story line has a little bit of a road warriors on the ocean feel to it.  Their ship, the Kapital, is largish trawler with a helipad on the back deck, but no armament other than a hunting rifle they have on hand.  The group is attempting to maintain their eco-liberal pacifist stance (easy to do if all you have is a hunting rifle), but it is not working out real well for them.  Some retrospective scenes, and some faux government-style document sheets are used to fill in some of the details, but the action starts with them in a fog bank off Kamchatka (a favorite location of mine from the game Risk) and some small boats the radar screen headed their way: unfriendly small boats.

Throughout there is a little mayhem, and a lot of personal tension, as the unhappy activists look for their lost friends, and wanting to eventually get home.  Only one member of the crew, a minor character, is American.  Home for the rest is scattered all over the globe.

It feels a little odd reviewing such a small portion of a larger story, but that is the nature of the beast with comics.  The artwork is very well done, and the slightly over-the-top nature of some of the action isn't too distracting.   Nobody is shooting webs, or psion blasting anyone.  Just speedboats, and a little karate-chopping.  It has a little bit of a left wing-PC world view going, but so did the old Spiderman comics.  I am not sure if I am going to continue with the series. After #1 and #2, I was encouraged.  But #3 got a little more PC, with the crew arguing the merits of passivity.  A handful of eco-activists motoring around the globe using up the last of the rare refined fuels, and they are worrying about being overly aggressive with a hunting rifle.  I may not continue the adventure. 

For our descriptive (versus qualitative) ratings - readability and realism - 1 to 7 with 7 being high.

As is expected of a near future story based around a ship, realism is relatively high. The illustrations are done in an illustrative, rather than stylized fashion.  Our heroes do worry about supplies.  There are enough drifting wrecks to get fuel from for the time being, but it is clear they expect supplies to get tighter.  They are in a tight spot, and it is not clear how they are going to recover. The odd nature of the catastrophe,  a sort of cosmic ecological event, is only semi-realistic, but as our rules go, we don't count crash-scenario plausibility.  However, the storyline is slightly heroic, and slightly condensed narrative required of the format looses some of the immediacy.  One notch below the maximum: a six.

Readability.  It is almost unfair.  It is very visual, and it is often a page turner.  You will catch a few details on the reread.  For instance, in an aside, the not the sinking of a U.S. Fleet.  The blurry ship sinking however, has the very distinctive turret outlines of a Bismark class battleship.  Comic books are an easy read: a 7.

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