1.21.2014

The Massive #19 [Advance Review]

The Massive #19 (Dark Horse): With roughly a year left before the series reaches its planned ending, it feels like writer Brian Wood has been building to this moment, a ready-set-go confluence of all the plot threds we’ve seen before as the series races to the finish line.

There’s another stunning interlocking triptych cover by John Paul Leon, and it’s a confounding mystery to me why JP isn’t an absolute superstar by now. If I could wave my magic wand like Prospero on his little island, these are the wrongs I would right. There’s a mineraly Earthiness to his inky lines, but also an insane level of depth and detail trailing off into the distance.

This issue kicks off the “Bloc” arc, highlighting the old Soviet Bloc, where everything was harshly disrupted post-Crash. The region is in chaos of every kind, economic dysfunction, government collapse, and military fiefdoms, with energy and weapons taking the place of currency. It’s a land of savagery, the kind of place that “made” men like Georg and Arkady (this arc’s antagonist), and a dying place where Cal feels at home. 

Eastern European Anarchy is the stage for Cal and Mag tracking Arkady, seeking a not-so-proportionate response for what’s occurred. It’s a welcome setting, making good on Wood’s promise to venture to basically every part of the globe by the time the series wraps. With Mary gone, imbalancing the three-legged stool supported by Mary, Mag, Cal, it allows Cal and Mag to rapidly descend into the haunting vestiges of their old life pre-Crash.

They’ll confront some enemies, and confront each other about cancer and friendship. It’s heart-breaking to see Cal still so misguided in his attempts to either protect Mag, or just wanting to do something on his own, to do something lasting, that he still doesn’t heed the advice of Bors, he strikes off and there are consequences to that.

There are some moments where Garry Brown’s art looks a tiny bit rushed or awkward, the early moments between Lars and Ryan come to mind, or there are times when very small details just feel off. For example, a guy like Cal would never rack the slide of a handgun with his finger inside the trigger guard (yes, I’ll be that guy for a second).

For the most part, Brown and colorist Jordie Bellaire capture the right tones though, for an issue where we’re surrounded by a culture of violence, past and present. Brown’s action sequences are spot on, and Bellaire bathes them in muted tones, the gray dreariness of post-Crash rioting lingering heavy on the page. Brown and Bellaire also pull off some nice visual shorthand, things like the manga-esque looks of startled recognition as Cal talks to Yusup about what he knows, or the cliffhanger featuring Mag’s literal rude awakening. Grade A.

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