The Massive #15 [The Wood Pile]

The Massive #15 (Dark Horse): It’s been building for a while, but the crew of The Kapital finally tracks down Georg and the little matter of his running rogue with a nuclear submarine, last seen hastily departing Moksha Station. Georg has been one of the most fascinating character creations in a cast already full of very fascinating characters. Mag and the shared history between the two men is his link to Ninth Wave, and here we see Mag haunted by that past. The more I’ve read and learned about The Battle of Grozny and some of the conflicts in the region at that time, the more brilliant I think it was for Brian Wood to make Georg from Chechnya. Here we see Georg basically as an agent of chaos, a product of violence and war that has basically been programmed only to perpetuate that same violence and war. In a misguided way, he attempts to rebel against that programming by potentially creating such a cataclysmic act of violence that it would be a whole new type of “Crash” all over again, wiping the slate clean, in his skewed perception of the world, for people like Mag, Cal, and Ninth Wave to inherit. Georg is a big picture thinker, to a detriment, which sometimes leads people to very peculiar smaller scale actions. Georg’s scorched earth policy, of sorts, is utterly tragic and terrifying and beautiful all at once. People’s true colors come out during stress, and Georg is no different. Some people panic wildly, some people remain calm and flourish, some people just can’t handle it and implode without a clear sense of purpose. Georg is probably the latter.
Along the way, Wood seeds the story with some other subtle elements which I found fascinating. With references to the French National Police’s counterterrorism division, the DST, and how both Georg and Mag would be perceived ethnically, racially, as terrorist threats, Wood touches on some uncomfortable realities in the post-9/11 landscape. It all leads to a somber scene aboard one of the fast attack zodiacs. It’s an intense lead up; with nuclear birds in the air and everyone from Ryan, to Mag, to Mary thinking the world is about to come to an end… something happens. It’s sort of a WTF moment that’s been brewing since day one, since Mary improbably rode with Megalodons, since she seemed to have an otherworldly affinity to the planet’s great oceans, the power to hold her breath submerged in icy waters for an inordinate length of time, since she had preternatural “powers” that seemed beyond those of mortal men. Those of us reading Brian Wood for a while, well, maybe we read DMZ and learned how Zee was a physical manifestation of New York City, perhaps we speculated that Mary is some type of literary Mother Nature, a Greek Gaia figure, some corporeal enchanted Sea Goddess, the Arwen to Cal’s Aragorn if you want, and some type of EMP thought-burst (or something) rewards their skills of observation and pattern recognition, fueling speculation for just WTF this series is about, where it’s going, and how it all might end in terms of plot, messaging, and specific characterization. Brian Wood zigs here when many probably think a zag was in order, an exercise in defying conventional expectations. So, there’s not really a full-scale military showdown with this US Navy faction that plays out singularly, though there is plenty of action, missiles being launched, choppers dropping charges, and people being shot unexpectedly. Like Georg railing against his programming, it’s up to the reader to parse Wood’s open-ended and inconclusive crescendo as the crew is at the end of a rope here, dangling like the rest of the planet. Next arc will point us further north and I doubt any clear direct answers will come, at least for a while.
Shit, I’ve written a bunch and haven’t discussed the art yet. Review Fail. Dang, how about that John Paul Leon cover?! Nobody is talking about JP, and he's got to be one of the most skilled artists working today, generous with the ink, but able to control the lines so deliberately, punctuating the mood of the story so effectively, all within a superb graphic design sensibility. On the interior, this might be the book Garry Brown was born to illustrate. The title page submerging NYC is a haunting image, immediately lending an intimidating sense of place, and see if you can spot his long narrow vertical panels like I called out back in issue 5 and issue 11. Jordie Bellaire’s colors deserve special recognition too. Together, Brown and Bellaire are something to behold, the murky grays of waterlogged NYC, the dark sky being pierced by ICBM ignition, or the red glow enveloping Georg in the sub, highlighting the almost devilish glint in his eyes. Artistically, it’s as if these images build the entire time to the final page’s ominous end, as they sail off into a poisoned sunset, the juxtaposition of the happy ending readers are programmed to expect, and the harsh realities of volatile existence post-Crash in The Massive. They’re all my favorite issues, but umm, this is one of my favorite issues. Grade A+.


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