Sunday, 3 February 2013

The Massive Volume 1: Black Pacific by Brian Wood

I knew Brian Wood from his Northlanders and X-Men work, so when I heard he was starting a comic based on a post-apocalyptic environmental dystopia I was sure I'd eventually get to read it and probably like it. As luck had it, this was the first comic I got from NetGalley to review and I must say my expectations were met.

The Massive is a story placed on a Planet Earth after all environmental hazard-hell broke loose, and follows a group of environmental activists, as they deal with the new world, find their place in it and travel in their boat, The Kapital, searching for their lost fellow ship, The Massive. This isn't so much an exploration of the fallout - the "Crash" - as it is an exploration of humanity after the society is no more, after everything changes almost instantaneously, in an unrecognisable world. And this is the first thing I liked about it because it's much more interesting to analyse the environment question as ways to avoid apocalypse or how are we to live after it than the usual cinema overused "day after tomorrow" formula. 

"This new world we're living in? It's not always going to afford us the luxury of a personal moral code."

The way the author shows us what happened to the planet is by short reports of localized events and then using them to return to the narrative. Associated to these moments, the narrator sometimes reminds us of a documentary-like voice which is not only adequate considering the theme but also contributes to the immersion of the reader in that world.
The broken society here doesn't limit itself to the street riots, looting and the usual first day after the end ideas. In the world of The Massive the civilization in no more. Countries that still exist are isolated, international commerce and consumerism is gone, cities are controlled by gangs and militias, pure drinkable water is harder to find than oil or pirates.
This first volume introduces the crew of The Kapital, the concept of their peaceful organization - Ninth Wave - and their current main purpose: surviving while searching The Massive. Here again I must praise the author's skill in the way he shows who these people are, both with the multiple situations they must face right now and with the flashbacks that tells us where they come from and how they ended up being who they are and where they are. Of all of them, Callum - the leader - is undoubtedly the most interesting, though he is by no means the single focus of the story. What I do feel is that all the others are more close to the typical stereotypes in these stories and serve as a good structure on which to show and develop Callum. Despite all this, all the crew ends up feeling like a believable group of people that will be interesting to follow in the times to come. 

The illustration is wonderful, both in the storytelling moments and in the world-building ones and the people seem real, their faces are distinct and emotional and their world is astonishing. Kristian Donaldson, Garry Brown and Dave Stewart do an excellent job of making Brian Wood's story seem real, plausible, "just around the corner" but also surprising and at times quite terrifying. I must emphasize the colorist's great work, at the same time helping to unify the whole book but also distinguishing the different narrative timelines and places.

All in all, this comic has an interesting setting with lots of space to grow, action and adventure enough and characters worth following. This first part does feel a bit introductory, as is usual and unavoidable in this kind of series, and I'm happy to have read it as a collected volume.

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