There’s an image of Mary crawling out of the sea as an infant which is basically the key to understanding the entire series. It’s perhaps an unlikely signpost indicating where The Massive sits in genre terms, the notion that it’s probably not (just) post-apocalyptic despite its obvious trappings. Ultimately, it’s a sci-fi story, and like a lot of high-quality, high-interest sci-fi, it’s a parable about lost opportunities, squandered potential, and a general warning about The State of Things. If you’re one of those pop culture consumers who was frustrated by the finale of Battlestar Galactica, then maybe(?) you’re not going to enjoy this thread of The Massive.
The Massive does offer all of those great post-apocalyptic moments one would expect from something ostensibly labeled as such, but there’s more. It’s not just about planes falling out of the sky because the very air has lost cohesion in some sort of naturalized EMP burst. It’s not just about the planetary stutter-step of rotational gravity that brings down thousands of orbiting satellites, punching through the atmosphere like a worldwide mortar attack. Those things are great. They’re clever ideas. I like them. But, the macro story is also about recourse, about man pushing on the planet long enough that it pushes back. It’s about creating anew, in a way that Dr. Ian Malcolm suggested in Jurassic Park: “Life, uh, finds a way.”
In the same way that the reveal of the baby and its very presence suggests hope, or some type of new beginning, there are also small character moments that reveal man’s inner capacity to change as well. Mag has a defining moment, a quick scene deliberately planted, where he abandons his old ways of approaching the world, suggesting that maybe humanity as a whole is ready to do the same post-Crash. This idea of a return to a kinder, simpler time (if you’ll pardon the corny expression) comes up again as Mag suggests actually sailing, a return to a rudimentary style of navigation in a post-digital world. It’s not unlike the change Bors seemed to want to make with his sustainable fishing village. “We can do this analog,” Mag asserts. It’s a great line in context, but in a meta sense, I of course wonder how much this is Brian Wood’s inner desire to recapture the way of making comics that first got him into the industry.
Speaking of defining moments, there’s an intercut conversation between Cal and Mary that loops back around to Cal finding Mary in San Francisco. Actually, it reconnects earlier than that, to the two of them “meeting” for the first time on an oil rig in the North Sea, back to the first issue, no, even earlier(!), to the Dark Horse Presents shorts that kicked the series off. Cal finally asks the right question: “What ARE you?” Now we realize it’s the key to understanding the whole series, the question we should have been asking numerous issues ago, as it’s all been building to this. If you’re a Marvel U fan, and you like The Watcher, maybe(?) you’ll like this thread of The Massive. Mary is a watcher of sorts, an organic Earth Sentry, maybe an indie incarnation of The Spirit of Earth if you will, like Jenny Sparks was The Spirit of the 20th Century for the Warren Ellis fans. She’s a being present at key moments in history. These are my thoughts, speculated from the text, it’s still not conclusive where Wood and Brown are taking us, because there is… more info by the end.
Speaking of artist Garry Brown, I think he’s one of the most underrated artists working in the industry today. I’m glad he’s been picking up some Marvel work, and I look forward to him taking on more creator owned work. His work on The Massive alone is an impressive portfolio of his complex capabilities. His style is one of tonal dichotomy. It’s something I noticed back in that first issue set in Mogadishu that he cranked out. There’s a certain warmth to his figures, an emotional center in their faces and stances that makes you feel the way the story wants you to feel. Yet, his lines are also jagged and somewhat scratchy (for lack of a more academic term). There’s a harshness to them that captures the manic energy of objects falling from the sky, that mirrors the erratic emotion of Lars and Ryan on the bridge of The Kapital, witnessing the end of the world for all they know.
The end of the issue inevitably comes (I’ll spare you my eulogizing the end of the entire series, for now!) and there are a couple things about it I really appreciated. There’s a bit of a throwaway line when the crew is deciding their next port, Sao Paulo, Buenos Aires, or Cape Town, South Africa. They mention that the Eastern Coast of the Americas is devastated, something referenced in the backmatter numerous issues ago. It’s proof of a cohesive story, a tightly self-contained 30 issues that are interlocking. There’s no fat on it, no narrative sprawl, and I appreciate creators who get in and get out, telling their story with a finite beginning, middle, and end, planned from the start. Lastly, Mary’s final words about the inhabitants of Earth, snuck into voice-over, might distract you from really absorbing their true meaning. If you hear what she’s sort of not saying, it’s huge. If that’s not big enough, well, there’s a last page reveal (which I won’t spoil, though you could spoil it yourself by looking at next issue’s solicit text), that basically feels like a nuclear detonation in your brain.