Remember that old saying, “These aren’t your Dad’s comics?” Well, if ever that applied to any comics, it applies to Brian Wood’s. Wood’s comics are rarely, if ever, the stuff of fun super hero legend, and with The Massive: Black Pacific, published by Darkhorse Comics, not much has changed—Wood is still all business.
Wood unconventionally tackles some of the world’s most controversial topics in a medium that has been largely, and incorrectly, pigeonholed for kids. Though he wasn’t the first comics activist, he cemented it as a genre, as readers witnessed in Channel Zero. As with any form of activism, Wood’s subject matter is heavy, and though some would go so far as to call it heavy handed, what cannot be argued is the weight of its sincerity, and its prevalent and timely warning.
Like the title states, the series is massive in both content and scope. An end of the world allegory that not only addresses the events leading up to a cataclysmic event, but also how the world and its surviving populace adapt in its aftermath. The event or cause is still shrouded in mystery, but Wood takes up the overall majority of The Massive’s pages to display the disastrous effects it has caused. By applying this unconventional approach, the characters take a backseat to the cataclysm itself. As a result it is difficult to find a connection with any of the main characters. This is OK since it seems that the only character of consequence is the cataclysm itself.
The story revolves around a crew of activists who are on a pacifistic mission to save the world. At first glance it seems as though Wood has given us a pretty straightforward, albeit biased, interpretation of the situation, but then we find out that the crew all seem to have military backgrounds, most notably the captain himself. A group of ex-mercenaries on a pacifistic mission in a post apocalyptic world might seem far fetched, but by giving us characters who were once part of the problem, seeking retribution, Wood has introduced a multi-layered sense of conflict, which works in unison with the surmounting ill effects plastered throughout the book as frightening reminders of how close we are to witnessing our own real life cataclysmic event.
Conflict aside, it still remains to be seen if the premise will hold up to scrutiny. There is a scene in The Massive where a group of pirates try to board their ship. They end up failing miserably as one of the crew pushes the pirate overboard with (I s*!t you not) a ten foot pole. But this is admittedly a very petty criticism, especially considering the overall story.
What does work is the contributions to The Massive artistically by artists: Kristian Donaldson and Garry Brown, both of whom, while bringing their own style to the pages, still manage to complement each other, and with the help of Dave Stewart’s colors, maintain the overall gritty look and feel of realism to the characters and their world.
In the introduction to the book, Jamais Cascio states that: “Even in the midst of horror and conflict, our lives continue. The story doesn’t end even if the world does.” I don’t know if that was Wood’s intent, but what he has made abundantly clear is that he is giving us another take no prisoners look at the consequences of our in action in a world that demands action!
The Massive: Black Pacific Review