There are only a handful of comic creators who give us travel comics, which is a shame. Well-crafted travel stories, no matter the genre, transport you to another place or time and fully immerse you in that new setting. Brian Wood and Kristian Donaldson’s “The Massive” might be set in a fictitious future of our planet, but the way that they’ve put this comic together reminds me of some of the best travel writing out there.
“The Massive” #2 continues the trend started with the first issue of dipping back and forth from the comic’s present day and the recent past, showing us not only how Callum Israel and the crew of the Kapital fight to survive and find the missing sister ship of the Massive, but how we got to that place through the events of the Crash and everything that came after. It’s not the first time that Wood has brought us into a world similar to ours but also radically changed; it was in many ways the hallmark of his six years writing “DMZ” in its ravaged-by-civil-war Manhattan. Unlike “DMZ,” though, “The Massive” is actually showing us exactly what happened during the deadly events collectively called the Crash, from tsunamis to magnetic field breaches that drops hundreds of satellites out of orbit. It’s an eerie, creepy series of scenes and it helps bring home just how bad a shape the planet is in, and why the crew of the Kapital is resorted to hiding in the fog off the coast of Kamchatka.
As fascinating as the glimpses in the past are (I’m dying to see even more about the partially sunken Hong Kong and the strange new port that’s sprouted up around it), though, Wood and Donaldson don’t lose track of making the non-flashback scenes gripping too. The pair deliver a tense game of cat and mouse, drenched in grey clouds and with an enemy that can’t actually be seen. Donaldson’s art is strong with clean lines and figures, and it’s how he draws the characters that sells that overall nervous feel that “The Massive” exudes. A panicked look at a boat’s electronic panels shouldn’t be so exciting, yet it is, and a single finger held up to the lips with a “Be quiet!” will have you holding your breath.
Best of all, these characters look genuinely ragged. With no easy source of any sort of supplies available (food, fuel, clothes, you name it) it has to be a soul-crushing existence, and you see that in their faces thanks to Donaldson. With Dave Stewart using a limited palette of colors to drench Donaldson’s art in just the right amount of light or darkness, there’s a strong visual punch delivered here.
“The Massive” is an impressive series, and we’re only two issues (and three short stories in “Dark Horse Presents” giving some pre-Crash origins of some of the characters) into its run. If you aren’t reading “The Massive” yet, I wholeheartedly recommend it. With titles like “MIND MGMT” and “The Massive,” Dark Horse has lined up some great new ongoing series. “The Massive” doesn’t just introduce you to a dangerous future, it drops you in feet-first and lets you try and swim for safety. Definitely check this series out.