By: Brian Wood (writer), Garry Brown (art), Jordie Bellaire (colors) and Jared K. Fletcher (letters)
The Story: The feud between Callum Israel and his old enemy Bors comes to a head.
Review (with SPOILERS): I don’t review The Massive every month because I feel like I always say the same thing: In The Massive, Brian Wood has created a fascinating world, but has stuck us watching the most boring man remaining on the planet.
Unfortunately, this issue was another example of the same problem.
In this story arc, we’ve seen Callum Israel and his colleagues from Ninth Wave drive their boat to Scandinavia to hassle whalers. Apparently, anti-whaling was a big deal for Ninth Wave pre-Crash and Callum just can’t let go. Because of the Crash, these whalers aren’t doing any sort of “commercial” whaling anymore: they’re now going out in longboats and hand-throwing harpoons at the whales. The meat goes to feed the people of the village. Nothing too sinister about this anymore. And, the whalers are lead by a former oligarch named Bors who Callum used to battle with in the pre-Crash world. Obviously life has changed for Bors and there are no more political power-plays, no more Ferraris, etc. Bors is now a simple man who leads a bunch of whalers.
The Massive is intensely frustrating because there isn’t enough of a consistent thread through the various stories to really make a coherent narrative. None of the stories seems to have any closure. I mean, if you gave someone the first trade paperback of The Massive, they might wonder if our protagonists ever found the missing ship. They might say, “Wow. That was great. They’re already up to issue #18?!? Don’t SPOIL it for me, but I’ll bet it was awesome when they found all their friends on the missing ship….” Except that plot-line seems to have been discarded. Not “resolved”….just discarded. Nobody in this issue even mentions the missing ship which had previously been cause for steaming around the world on a wild goose chase. It’s just frustrating because Brian Wood is a new writer where it would be safe to assume that he just doesn’t know what he’s doing; Wood is an experienced pro who has told excellent long-form tales before. So, there is a part of me that still wonders if it’s just me. Am I not getting it yet?
All that being said, I think this issue did give a few glimpses into what this series could be becoming about:
Obviously, we readers aren’t supposed to like Callum Israel. He is a protagonist, but not a hero. I mean, it’s all fun to be anti-whaling in the real world, but in this post-Crash world, he’s just hassling people who are trying to feed their village with whale meat. They are using the same whaling techniques that their ancestors used 1,000 years ago: paddles, wooden boats, hand-thrown harpoons…. These men aren’t “destroying the environment”. Callum Israel really drove his boat all the way across the Atlantic Ocean (from their showdown with the US Navy in flooded NYC) just to hassle these guys?
But, what I think this story might have been about is man’s willingness to change. Bors has changed his life and his principles to accommodate a post-Crash world. Bors actually reminds me more of the characters from Brian Wood’s Northlanders. The guy is a Viking. Callum – on the other hand – is still clinging to a pre-Crash mentality where the excesses of the First World threaten to destroy the planet. He simply has to save the environment (or whatever his mission is) and he can’t realize that the Crash has kinda done his work for him. The Earth is just fine. It isn’t as suitable for humans anymore, but it still works and the animals seem very happy with the situation – especially the marine animals that Callum seems to mostly care about. He just can’t let go. In a story arc about whales, he is a little Ahab-esque. And, like any obsessed person, he is slowly driving away the people who follow him and love him.
There is a nugget of a story in The Massive, but it just hasn’t been told very well over the length of the series. Just as I start to think The Massive is about one thing, I fully expect the next story arc to be about something else. And that is why the series frustrates me. There are so many things I’d love to learn about this fascinating world, yet we’re stuck with one man’s choppy story.
The art isn’t the problem with the series. There might be a few places where a character looks stiff or where the sequential action broke up a little, but this art would be just fine if the story was more coherent. I guess if I were to fault the art, it is that it isn’t picking the story up when it sags.
The one final thing about this issue is that it gave me such a Northlanders vibe that I’m going to try to reread some of that excellent series over the holiday break.
Conclusion: The Massive is still frustrating. There are glimpses of an excellent story, but for the most part we get something a lot more boring.