The Massive #13 [Advance Review]
The Massive #13 (Dark Horse): Garry Brown returns as the regular series artist, just in time to accompany Brian Wood home to NYC. We’ve heard bits and pieces about what’s been going on in the United States, and we even got a laundry list of interesting factoids in the backmatter of a previous issue. But, since Wood made a conscious decision to craft The Massive as a non-American POV story after spending so much time with internal US politics in DMZ, this is the first time we’re seeing the city up close. When Civil War broke out in DMZ and Manhattan became the front, roughly half a million people stayed in the city when it was evacuated. You’ll find no such holdouts in the “Americana” arc of The Massive. Manhattan is uninhabited and under 70 feet of toxic water. If you managed to pick up a DC book called The Unexpected #1, you saw Brian Wood team with artist Emily Carroll for a short story also entitled “Americana.” If you didn’t get it, well, you should go do that now, because it's really good. Use of the “Americana” name is great because a) it’s just too cool a name to pass up, and b) it sort of subverts the idea of nostalgia. When you hear that name, you probably think of stereotypical baseball games and apple pies and Norman Rockwell paintings, not the idea of the United States as a failed third world state with both coasts abandoned and a way of life (economy, government, not to mention the very ecosystem) in total disarray.
The crew of The Kapital returns to New York (don’t worry, I’ll avoid outright spoilers) to, uhh, try and take care of a big dangling plot thread from the arc before last, one that’s explained as a demon from Mag’s checkered past. Their silent entry into Lower Manhattan is eerie as hell, making you instantly believe that land has receded due to aggressive siege waters. Jordie Bellaire has become one of Brian Wood’s go-to colorists and it’s very easy to see why in an issue like this. In most of the “newsfeed” world-building blurbs, there’s a sandy yellow glow that punctuates the way harsh environmental conditions are taking their toll on human civilization in the post-Crash world. Garry Brown is probably turning in his best art on the series so far. When he burst onto the title in issue four, there was a sketchy unkempt quality to his art that was full of the right kind of energy for that ragged trip to Mogadishu. Here, it’s almost as if he’s slowed down and controlled his lines for a more refined and fully rendered aesthetic. The early conversation between Mag and Ryan shows off the beautiful contours of her face. When Mag and Cal are at odds later, the softer quality to the outlines of the figures and more consistent inking allows the reader to linger longer on their frames and to absorb what they’re saying. That’s an important moment too.
The basic philosophical difference between the dispositions of Mag and Cal is essentially the key identity dichotomy that the entire series wrestles with. They argue over the continued execution of Ninth Wave’s mission. Mag feels that when the world’s lost, you pragmatically abandon the mission and its outdated principles because you have to be willing to do anything in order to survive. Cal thinks just the opposite, than when the world’s lost, that’s exactly when you hold onto your mission and uphold the principles the most fervently because they’re all that matters in the new reality. I really enjoy how Ryan is moved more to the forefront among the cast. As the only American aboard the crew, a young 20-year old who is also the newest member of the crew, the audience identifies with her as the entry level every-woman POV character to some degree. In terms of belly-feel, my gut still tells me that she’ll be(come) an important figure the further the series progresses, but that’s admittedly speculation. For now, we’re treated to a startling final page; it’s one I never saw coming and one that kicks this arc off quickly by placing the crew in a tense highly problematic situation, while they were already chasing another one of those to begin with. Also? Where can I get one of those Ninth Wave jackets like Mag and Ryan are wearing? Here’s to wishful thinking that Brian Wood extends his boutique apparel shop, Northern Boy, to include those coats! Grade A.