The events in The Massive aren't world ending so much as world changing. Mother Nature turned her back on humankind and the result is a fractured, split world which struggles to survive among the ruins of civilization. The backdrop is epic in scope but the focus is on the small crew aboard a conservationist ship called the Kapital, who refuse to abandon their mission of finding their long lost sister ship, the Massive. Somewhat similar to a modern television show there's a big mysterious goal guiding the larger arc but with these first few issues it's more about survival and exploration. Writer Brian Wood really wants us to get to know this world and the people that inhabit it before overloading us with too much plot too quickly. The result is a wonderfully grounded what-if scenario built on realism and rich characters that are as fractured and complicated as the new world.
The storytelling takes an approach similar to Lost in that much of the initial character development is told through flashbacks, usually informing and building upon what's taking place in the present. Slowly and methodically we learn what makes each of these characters tick, shedding the obvious and cliché classifications in an effort for something more relatable. The goal isn't to transport you to a different world but instead make you feel as at home as possible so that when the big moments happen, you are right there beside these characters. Wood has the rare ability to take something so familiar and skew it just enough so that it continues to engage while never making you feel like you've seen everything. He gives you just enough to be satisfied, but you're always wanting more.
The book is really broken up into two smaller 3-issue arcs, each with a different situation the crew was deal with and as a result different artists split the duties between the halves. The first entitled “Landfall” deals mostly with a sea-based cat and mouse game between the Kapital and pirates through dense fog while tracing a signal they think is from the Massive. It's a slow burn thriller with more emphasis on backstory and past events than any sort of real narrative beyond finding the Massive. It's nonetheless exciting with Kristian Donaldson's art cleverly displaying the sea excursion as above water submarine warfare, the moments of silence and tension accentuated with Dave Stewart's grim grays and deep blues.
The second half entitled “Black Pacific” is land and survival based dealing with the crew's need for supplies and the unorthodox ways they go about getting them. Like “Landfall” there isn't a big narrative arc to the second half. Instead it's about the individual situations the crew find themselves in and the moral implications of the choices they make. The world isn't nice and tough decisions must be made. What happens when nice, decent people are saddled with those tough decisions? Garry Brown's art for “Black Pacific” contrasts Donaldson's with a more rough, pressured approach that heightens the more intense, action specific sequences. He sacrifices detail for energy and the result is a perfect match for the writing style.
If there are any weak spots in The Massive's hull, they are all minor dents and more than made up for by the excellent art and Wood's dedication to deep characters and engaging plotting. The only disappointment might come in how the story ends. Will it all be worth it in the end? It's a slow build on a mysterious narrative and as of right now appears to be well worth the investment. The Massive is one of the most promising original titles in recent memory offering a beautiful union of world building, concept, and characters that I can't recommend enough.