8.08.12 Reviews (Part 1/2)

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The Massive #3 (Dark Horse): Man, I remember “complaining” about DMZ that I wanted more of the back story regarding the outbreak of the war, so I’m very happy to see so many flashback panels to “The Crash” here in The Massive. Whether it’s NYC going dark from a widespread power outage (sending echoes out to other Brian Wood work), or the startling news of a British nuclear submarine mysteriously detonating in the Straits of Magellan, it’s a welcome bit of fleshing out this world. I’ve seen Wood take some flak from fellow reviewers for spelling out too much and creating a choppy effect that veers away from the main narrative, but I actually think this is a smart and calculated juxtaposition. Systematically filling in that backstory gives you a sense of how terrible and bleak this cataclysmic new environment is, making you understand why the characters are pushing themselves and each other so hard for a new ideology and reason to exist. As one of the crew puts it, “We can still change the world, right?” It’s important to stress that this line is a desperate question from someone on the verge of disillusionment. This is the last issue from Kristian Donaldson, capping off this introductory arc, and I’m still impressed with how much his style has shifted since his early work like Supermarket. It’s not as blocky and angular, more human and lived in, more sleek and refined, comfortable doing action like when Mag fends off pirates, but just as at ease during tense quiet moments like when he lines up his shot later at the end of a rifle. So, here we go, The Kapital finds Mary, but will they find The Massive? That hook seems to fuel the narrative at a high level, but now we have this business with Mag and Georg The Chechen (and their mysterious past together) all laid out for us either in the script or in the bonus material’s timeline clues. This is a big cliffhanger that has the potential to change everything, questioning loyalties and motives in the process, hinting at a greater story beyond the crew’s immediate concerns. I’m wondering how many people will really register what just happened? I’m as hooked as ever. The bonus material itself is hard not to comment on; it’s the perfect dessert, full of research, design flair, and the aforementioned clues. (And c'mon Wood, when do we get to order our Ninth Wave campaign patches from your store?!). The time spent explaining the Nikolski town “model,” while seemingly quaint and antiquated and anachronistic, may just be the key to the future, an outpost intent on survival, not ideology or nationality. I honestly can’t think of a way to improve this book. Grade A+.

Wasteland #39 (Oni Press): Ordinarily, I’d be that guy who complained about the overall lack of backgrounds in the art, but what Sandy Jarrell’s style here does is force you to focus on the main characters in the foreground. And those three characters are probably some of the most important in the entire ensemble cast comprising The Big Wet Universe. This interlude issue is about Michael, Marcus, and Mary as youngsters, just 10 years after The Big Wet, which is the oldest flashback I think we’ve seen to date. Antony Johnston offers so much intrigue surrounding the past relationship of the trio, highlighting Marcus’ visions which feel like divine right, Mary’s uncanny psychic powers, and Michael’s mental and physical prowess, all fragments of their early personalities which echo in the future. Jarrell isn’t an artist I was very familiar with, but not only does he depict believable younger versions of characters we’re already familiar with, his silhouetted shots and use of negative space are phenomenal. It creates a dynamic in some panels where the figures become lost in a world that’s already been lost. In short, this is my favorite interlude issue to date, aside from the sheer full color spectacle from Chris Mitten that was #25. On the Wednesdays that Wasteland comes out, I feel the same sense of excitement and the unexpected that I felt reading comics as a kid. You just never know where it will go, Wasteland defies any formulaic approach and blazes its own path. It’s all capped off by one of the most striking covers the series has seen, again thanks to Mitten. And another special thanks to the gang at Oni Press for a pull quote adorning the cover from yours truly. Grade A.


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