The Massive #1 by Brian Wood, Kristian Donaldson and Dave Stewart

The Massive #1 by Brian Wood, Kristian Donaldson and Dave StewartElliot Cole reviews The Massive for Bleeding Cool;

The Massive, Wood's latest big new thing, regards a crew of Greenpeace-ish activists aboard a boat amidst (literally) tumultuous times.

It's a great start to a series, apart from tiny thing which I'll get to presently, and the switching colour palettes easily guide you through and there's a nice docket of backmatter at the end.

My only slight reservation is with the emotional handling of the characters. It's not that I think that all of these characters are unfeeling, cold and calculated. I also don't think that's how they're being intentionally put across, either. After all, there's a well-handled (ie. not horribly expository) introduction of the main relationship, stretched over eight panels. I'm just not really super emotionally involved just yet.

On possible reason for this is the back matter, there's a lot of relevant text for a first issue, here. I read through this, and I think maybe it took me away from the story a little bit, as it was more like newspaper reading (something I fetishize slightly). I would say that on your first read, just enjoy the story, then go back for the backmatter a bit later–you can do without it initially. I would say it's relevant, however, the information that you get out of it builds the story heavily. I mean, apparently there is, or was, a helicopter involved at some point according to the Captain's log.

The artwork consists of clean, simple lines, and doesn't change, other than some differences with shading. Sometimes there's a sketchy feel to the 'vintage' panels, and often (in both) there's slight ben-day effect. I like this, and it screams a design choice to me, which is one of a few reasons this feels a bit like a Hickman comic book (more on this below). That said, I think the most obvious and key part of the artwork is Stewart's colouring. It's a very simple thing using a sepia tone to indicate older passages, but sometimes simple works best. His flat colouring with basic shading here is a popular style, and I like it. It works well, it's contemporary and is a good match for the story.

Here's three panels of the dated stuff from the book:

The Massive #1 by Brian Wood, Kristian Donaldson and Dave Stewart

Two externals; we see the ben-day used extensively here, and the sketchy/obscured style of Hong Kong in the fog and the clean lines elsewhere.
The Massive #1 by Brian Wood, Kristian Donaldson and Dave Stewart

An internal; with more obvious clean lines, and more blocked shading mixed with a couple of other techniques that if I tried to name you'd ridicule me for the rest of my life for getting them wrong.

As I say, it's a nice mixture, and each stylistic choice works with the others. (I hope that I'm not spoiling things with that last panel.)

I mentioned that I think this is a little Hickman-esque, and I'm sure that Mr. Wood was doing stuff like this whilst JH was in his comics diapers, but it's conceptually on a level with some of the things that Mr. Hickman likes to play with. This said, I don't think that Mr. Wood is as bombastic with his promotion of this. There's also no reliance on a heavy cliff-hanger. I like this (I don't dislike it in other books) because it makes me feel less disconnected from the story when I pick up the next issue. Bryan K. Vaughan can do this sometimes very well, too, it brings flow and continuity to a story which will obviously work very well in trade. Time will tell if this has worked well here.

Wood has hit us with a solid modern story, but twenty-one pages might seem a bit thin for $3.50. I will say that there are no full page or two page splashes, and the backmatter does add to the story, so you get more for $3.50 than with other books. I would have gone with a three out of five, as for the price this probably isn't long enough. I am slightly enthusiastic about this as a series, though, so I'm going to go against my head and slide up to a four. Worth your time, at least for two issues.

About Rich Johnston

Founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world, since 1992. Author of The Flying Friar, Holed Up, The Avengefuls, Doctor Who: Room With A Deja Vu, The Many Murders Of Miss Cranbourne, Chase Variant. Lives in South-West London, works from Blacks on Dean Street, shops at Piranha Comics. Father of two. Political cartoonist.