The Massive Vol. 1: Black Pacific by Brian Wood et al

The Massive, Vol. 1: Black Pacific - Brian Wood & Kristian Donaldson & Garry Brown & Dave StewartPublished: April 2nd, 2013
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Genre(s): Graphic Novel
Format: Paperback
Length: 176 pages

The Massive tells the story of the Ninth Wave conservationist force ship The Kapital as its crew tries to survive in a post-apocalyptic world and find their missing sister-ship, The Massive. The Kapital’s crew is an odd group of misfits and environmentalists; the captain, Callum Israel, previously worked for a Blackwater-style outfit until he grew tired of killing and rededicated his life to pacifism and environmentalism. Along for the ride is another former mercenary, Mag Nagendra, who is still more than willing to use violence to protect the ship and its crew, and a mysterious woman named Mary who may not be what or who she seems.

As for the apocalypse, it was more of a gradual world-wide collapse than anything more cut-and-dried. Water levels have risen, half-burying cities around the world. Huge parts of America lost power and never got it back. A series of environmental disasters crippled world commerce and decimated local populations. All of it has added up to a world where The Kapital spends its time searching for supplies, bartering with criminals and running from pirates.

In fact, there is very little plot to this first volume of The Massive that doesn’t concern The Kapital’s efforts to resupply. We are given small glimpses of back-story as well as hints of supernatural events later in the book, but for the most part the story focuses on the dry minutia of survival. Scenes of fighting off pirates and searching for supplies alternate with flashbacks explaining the disasters that added up to a sort of slow, creeping end of the world.

The introduction to the book emphasizes that life goes on after a disaster, and explains that part of the idea behind The Massive’s story was to talk about a different kind of apocalypse, where people just keep living in spite of the world falling apart around them. It’s an interesting concept, but unfortunately the result feels more like an environmentalist lecture than a compelling story.

Character development is limited, and what plot there is concerns itself with fairly mundane occurrences. There’s a good amount of discussion about the missing ship, The Massive, which clearly has some significance to the overall storyline, but I didn’t get a sense of where the series was going from the first volume. It felt like the author spent most of his time establishing a number of plausible environmental disasters, but neglected to offer interesting characters or a compelling storyline.

The one strong point is the art, which favors striking realism throughout. Unfortunately, however, that isn’t enough for me to recommend this book, which I ultimately found dry and uninteresting.


Full disclosure: I received a free review copy of this book from Net Galley.

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iZombie Vol. 1: Dead to the World

Published: March 22, 2011
Publisher: Vertigo
Genre(s): Fantasy, Graphic Novel
Format: Trade Paperback
Pages: 144

Pop culture has been in zombie/vampire/werewolf overdrive the past few years, and it’s pretty rare to find a story that has a unique twist on the mythos. iZombie, an ongoing series from Vertigo by Chris Roberson and Michael Allred, isn’t the savior of the genre, but it does at least have a few original twists on some tired old archetypes.

iZombie tells the story of Gwen Dylan, an undead gravedigger who has to eat brains once a month to keep from becoming a full-on shambling zombie horror. She doesn’t enjoy the taste at all, describing them as worse than “a cross between motor oil and someone else’s vomit”, but eating them keeps her sane and relatively normal, so she digs up the freshest grave once a month and does what she feels is necessary. One unfortunate side effect of brain-eating is that the memories of the deceased come along for the ride, and she finds herself compelled to finish their unfinished business. When the story opens, she eats the brains of a man who may have been murdered, and sets out to solve the mystery.

Gwen’s only friends are Ellie, a ghost-girl who died forty years ago and dresses like one of Austin Powers’ backup dancers, and Scott (aka ‘Spot’), who turns into a “were-terrier” during the full moon, which mostly just means he becomes embarrassingly hirsute. They live in a version of Eugene, Oregon overflowing with supernatural beings; the paintball place down the road is run by a coven of vampires that look like former sorority girls, and a mysteriously menacing man wrapped in bandages may be an ancient Egyptian mummy. Naturally, there are also monster hunters thrown into the mix, one of whom becomes a possible love interest for Gwen, which will surely lead to further complications down the line.

The art, done by the inimitable Michael Allred, is gorgeous, full of thick black lines and his signature Madman style. One particularly impressive spread in the middle of the book shows Gwen walking through the memories of another character. The memories are shown as individual panels in the comic, but are printed in an exaggerated halftone. Gwen seems to exist above the panels, standing between or on top of each individual memory. Allred’s art is easily my favorite part of this book.

The story is good, but mostly setup. The mystery established at the start doesn’t amount to very much, and many of the plot threads in this initial volume are not resolved. However, the explanation of the overal supernatural mythos is thoughtful, and most of the creatures are given an interesting twist. Only the vampires seem particularly cliche – too-beautiful women preying on lonely men. I think there’s potential here, however; Roberson establishes enough interesting threads that I look forward to reading future volumes.


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