The Massive #9 (Dark Horse): This issue, simply titled “Sub,” closes the third arc “Subcontinental,” and it’s an insanely good issue for many reasons, not the least of which is the strength of the art. Take something you’d never think about like, say, water. Many artists I know have told me that water, just a plain body of water, is one of the hardest things to draw with any semblance of realism. Garry Brown is drawing a lot of damn water! There’s a lot going on in this issue as the crew’s temporary stay at Moksha Station comes to an end, which will have lasting repercussions (so I guess this is where I should issue some type of spoiler alert?), but two of the main concepts which coalesce nicely are that we learn a large chunk of Georg’s origin and Garry Brown is absolutely on fire! He depicts Grozny, a city built for a singular purpose – war inevitably finding it, as a pile of ravaged rubble, with forced perspective shots from the POV of dragged feet, later echoing that type of extreme perspective as George encounters a submerged vessel, and then as he carries out an unflinching disposal of the guards. I loved page two, where Georg silently plunges down an elongated panel that punctuates his dive along the side of the page. It’s something Brown did back in issue five that I picked up on then too. I’m starting to learn his style and see how his creative choices function the more I study his work.
I think I mentioned before that some of the supporting characters like Ryan, Georg, and even Yusup have quickly grown to be the most interesting, or most memorable, or most compelling, or even my favorites (aside from Cal of course, for reasons which will become obvious the more you read). Georg, who carried his father’s body before he carried a Kalashnikov, has grown up in war, has been socialized by war, his pain has turned him into a rogue element. In a book full of soldier types with military training, it’s important to remember that Georg isn’t a soldier per se, he’s a mercenary, a gangster, a survivor, who may not always gel with the established chain of command. Being a survivor means that he has to operate with a certain moral flexibility, so his status as a wild card adds an immense amount of tension. This is something that Cal and Ninth Wave are likely going to have to deal with.
Meanwhile, resourceful Lars defends The Kapital as a tense scene bewteen Cal and Sumon plays out. I love how Cal is able to call Sumon’s bluff because he knows what he ordered Lars to do and he trusts Mary implicitly. The conversation between Sumon and Callum is basically one about materialism, the latent desire to physically hold ground or possessions being somewhat futile in a world that now is about the impermanence and frailty of life. All these people have in the post-Crash world is belief, belief in something, and the ability to trust, to trust in something. Cal has tried to surround himself with people he trusts and believes in the idea of something larger than himself, a mission, a legacy, something like Ninth Wave that can live beyond him, or else, what was the point of it all?
I guess this is a nice segue to (again, spoiler alert) the fact that there’s an extremely important reveal about Cal’s health that adds a sense of urgency to all of the proceedings beyond the obvious dangers the crew has already encountered. This reveal is something that the foundation was laid for, alluded to, established, in the backmatter about three issues back. The lesson? THE BACKMATTER MATTERS! It’s a part of the story, and if you’re one of those people who didn’t read it, or didn’t get it, or didn’t support the idea of that innovative style of bonus content, then I basically hate you.
One fact that is somewhat surprising to me is that if Wood really intends to close this series around issue 30, we’re basically a third of the way there. Before moving into field work, I came up in federal law enforcement as an analyst, concerned with pattern recognition, behavioral science, and risk projection. I also kinda’ like writing and the structure of things. All of this has made me start to speculate as to what Wood’s end game might be for this story and these characters. Cal is concerned with what his legacy will be. What happens in the future? There are threads here beyond the ostensible mystery of The Massive. Where does this all go? How do all of the pieces get moved around the chess board? If certain players are taken off the board, who moves in to relieve them? I have my theories, but I’ll keep them close to the vest for now. I wouldn’t want to spoil anyone else’s journey simply because I want to be able to later selfishly say “toldyaso!” to satisfy my own ego. That said, there are subtle clues all over the place regarding what’s happening now in places like the intersection between Mag, Ryan, and Yusup, and more open-ended trajectories being set into motion about what’s to come. For now, I’ll say this. Moksha dies. Cal’s in trouble. Georg is gone. The Massive is still MIA. My eye is on Ryan. Right now, The Massive is giving Planetary a run as my favorite series of the last 20 years. Grade A+.