COMIC REVIEW: The Massive #1

Brian Wood has been around in comics for over a decade and it seems that only more recently has he hit a creative stride. Sure he cut his independent teeth on 1997’s Channel Zero (Image Comics), 2003’s Demo (AiT/Planet Lar) and other projects – both creator-owned and mainstream, but it’s with his latest string of original work through DC Comic’s Vertigo imprint that has been remarkable.

As his two main Vertigo series, DMZ and Northlanders, sadly drew closer to their respective conclusions fans were left wondering what he would come up with next and if it will be as intriguing and engaging as his prior work. After a move to Dark Horse Comics, Brian Wood brings us The Massive, and to this reviewer the answer – based on only the first issue – is potentially YES.

The Massive #1 doesn’t rush at you with explosions but takes its time in bringing out the key elements that will be involved in the series to come. We are introduced to the cast of characters, particularly Callum Israel, captain of the ship Kapital and some members of its crew, and are told they are searching for their missing sister-ship The Massive. We are given inklings of the characters and their situation within the story. And what happened to the world is delivered in a newsreel-fashion that comes across as eery and adds suspense to a taut first issue. It is definitely one to intrigue and draw the reader in, and will definitely leave you keen on reading #2. Particularly as this issues comes across as more world-building than character focused.

Artist Kristian Donaldson steals the spotlight from Brian Wood in the first issue of The Massive. His linework is superb and his characters look unique and distinct. He cunningly suggests the bleak, loneliness of the series’ post-apocalyptic setting and does a good job at keeping the tone serious in every element of his pencils. Most impressive of all, Donaldson manages to draw the Kapital in such a way that it looks stunning in every panel, from the ship’s exterior to what is shown of its interior. A double-page spread of the Kapital totally blew me away, and I don’t normally like looking at boats.

The bonus content in the issue is particularly interesting and acts as a nice way to add to the world of The Massive. We are delivered a log from captain Callum Israel that fills in the gaps between the environmental collapse and their current predicament, as well as a few background reports. They are a nice touch and make you feel like you are getting value for your money. Particularly as these bonuses are allegedly going to be kept strictly to the monthly printings and won’t be included in the trade paperback collections of the series.

The only weakness in The Massive #1 is that, although we are shown the post-disaster (or post-“Crash”) world that the story takes place in, we are not given enough time to properly discover the characters as anything other than 2D talking machines. We are given suggestions of who they are in casual dialogue and the odd flashback but this first issue is more concerned with setting up the backdrop of the story.

Crucially, we are not completely told why Israel and his crew are chasing after The Massive, which the comic is named after. Something which should really be delivered on the get-go. Hopefully Brian Wood and Kristian Donaldson will answer that question by the end of the series’ first arc.

Rating: 4/5
: Dean Simons

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