Readers of Brian Wood's "The Massive" know about central character Callum Israel and his Ninth Wave environmental movement, which fought to protect a world already victimized and all but destroyed by nature gone wild, government upheaval and economic turmoil. Wood now visits just how the environmental group used to spend their time in a pre-crash world in "The Massive: Ninth Wave" #1, along with returning artist Garry Brown and colorist Jordie Bellaire. The first of this six-issue prequel series features a low-key but tense showdown between Cal and an enemy he faced -- or will face -- in the main series.
There are no flooded coastal regions or opportunistic warlords here, nor are half of the Ninth Wave's fleet missing. Nonetheless, the dangers presented here are very immediate and very real, both to the environment and people alike, among them Cal himself. Wood uses the same excellent characterization for Cal here that he did in the previous series, portraying him as strong and unflinching in the face of being outmanned and outgunned. In fact, Cal is not the haggard, weary and deathly-ill protagonist from "The Massive"; here, he's at the top of his game, able to fight for his cause under far better circumstances, and he finds himself in a literal face-to-face showdown with a billionaire industrialist who wields tremendous power.
The Ninth Wave, though, wields tremendous power of their own, which Wood demonstrates here with the group's non-violent method of targeted disruptions. One appealing aspect of the main series was Wood's clever resolution of conflicts that weren't always achieved through violence or gunfire, and he applies the same the same tactic here. There isn't a single gun pointed or fist raised, yet Wood evokes palpable tension both on the quiet waters of the seas as well as on a covert mission of industrial sabotage. Brown paces the tension of Wood's story by executing it simply and traditionally, mostly avoiding larger panels save for establishing the setting.
On the opening page, Brown cleverly symbolizes the Ninth Wave's power in comparison to its opposition's by way of the organization's "massive" twin ships flanking and dwarfing the luxury yacht of a business tycoon. It sends home a point Wood makes during the course of the story, as well as throughout the previous series: that nature and the environment are the most dominant power on the planet. Brown's art carries a kind of gritty texture to it; the ships, buildings and basically anything manmade look grimy and dirty, as if to say such artificial constructs are a blemish upon nature. Bellaire's colors -- which are largely muted -- play into this look, with the only bright tones seen in the open skies.
"The Massive: Ninth Wave" #1 is a welcome look at a strong cast of characters who are at their peak, rather than suffering through the effects of a world gone mad, which allows them to stand out without the distraction of a pseudo-apocalypse. It doesn't have the hook of the original series, but Wood and Brown prove that this issue doesn't need it.