I’m not really supposed to do full-blown reviews in this column, which is more of a self-imposed rule than any sort of official mandate, but part of the joy of being able to post these columns at Comics Bulletin with a publisher like Jason Sacks is that you have the freedom to indulge and do whatever makes your heart go pitter-patter. That said, here’s my “not-review” of this week’s star, the series finale in The Massive #30, a book which I was privileged enough to read an advance copy of prior to #29 even coming out.
As Brian Wood promised, it’s all about the end, and this issue is essentially an epilogue to the mass exodus event featured in the last issue. We’ve seen the departure of Mary’s “people,” whether she was one being, or one of many, or simply a corporeal manifestation of an idea, be it Atlanteans, Mother Earth, or an Elemental Goddess type of figure (although Wood has said “no” to mythological Gaia specifically when pressed on Twitter), or proto-humans, or other pre-human (by which I mean non-human) stewards of the planet. “The Slabs” depart as part of Earth’s exponential hard reboot, forming a mass exodus mystery steeped in wide-eyed sci-fi, concluding the final Norse Mythology-entitled arc, “Ragnarok,” which is a clue itself.
It’s done in such a way that leads readers to a precipice and then asks that they draw their own conclusions. Brian has never been the type of writer to prescriptively exposit what it all means, he’s not that self-analytical, and he’s not a writer who favors overly-constructed storytelling, but follows his gut and asks that you follow along, respecting your ability to apply subscriptive meaning to what you’re seeing. The Massive has been about the journey in many respects, about seeing life from a different perspective, about demonstrating issue after issue the futility of war and territorial power and amassing wealth, and how petty and short-sided those things are compared to infinitely more pressing global concerns, especially when something catastrophic comes along to forcefully reframe it all.
There’s an important change in protagonist voice in this finale, a hand-off from one generation to the next (and the implied stewardship of “New Earth” – my term), as the POV shifts to little Yeva, which is an optimistic move for a writer who can tend toward dystopian crumble. From a narrative standpoint, the script touches on Mary’s many eyebrow-raising characteristics, seen as early as an improbably deep and prolonged dive into icy waters to successfully save Ryan (this was the first red flag for me indicating that she was more than she let on way back in issue #5), long before riding Megalodons off the California Coast and the weird EMP telekinetic ability that tipped off Mag.
It touches on a man like Mag Nagendra, his rejection of an old mercenary life steeped in violence and moral flexibility, and his newfound near-religious faith in an entity like Mary. He’s a man who served as a witness, and it’s tempting to imagine “The Gospel According to Mag,” his testament to the rise and fall of the new and the old. I don’t want to get all religious here, but it’s impossible to ignore the recombinant biblical intonations of Mary as a healer, as a martyr who will sacrifice herself for our sins, there’s immaculate little Yeva – half god-like and half mortal (and her mom’s name is obviouslyMary after all), there’s The Massive (the actual ship) functioning as an ark, there’s John Paul Leon’s cover homage to Michelangelo’s “Pieta” on issue #26, there’s overtly calling out the Hebrew name of Callum Israel (something I commented on in my little piece of the backmatter in issue #5), and I’ll reach and suggest you can even view Callum like the carpenter Joseph, swept up in larger events – not even really the protagonist of his own ostensible story, concerned with building something, a legacy, for his time on Earth, for his organization, and now for his daughter. The end of The Massive is also concerned with the building of an alt creation myth in the midst of those coded images and terms, words like “exodus,” a term I’ve deliberately used here more than once.
The Massive ends as the best series do, leaving you with the desire to go back and reread the run to find the clues and see how it all fits together. The series ends as a dire warning, a cautionary tale, but also finds an optimistic tone. There’s still hope. Yeva inherits a New Earth from Mary and Cal and the sometimes fleeting, but mostly aspirational efforts of the Ninth Wave Marine Conservationist Direct Action Force. It’s worth noting how The Massive sits interestingly in the Brian Wood library. In many ways, it functions as a thematic counterpoint to something like Northlanders. If Northlanders was a subconscious effort for Wood to come to terms with being a father, an authorial attempt to try and reconcile the sometimes helpless sense of parenthood, of failing to shield your children from all of the awful shit that goes on in the world, a relatively bleak view when taken as a whole, then The Massive ends with a more hopeful note for our kids’ future. It’s the idea that there’s still time left to turn it all around. That it’s worth the effort. It’s not too late. It’s time to make the world a better place; if not for us, for our children.
Hey, there are other comics coming out this week! Image Comics has Rick Remender, Matteo Scalera, and Dean White’s awesome Black Science #11 (imagine a rejected FF pitch that was too intense for the suits at Marvel), as well as Kyle Higgins, Alec Siegel, and Rod Reis’C.O.W.L. #7 (unionized superheroes in 1960’s Chicago, think Michael Mann’s Crime Story meets Astro City). I’m also curious about They’re Not Like Us #1, by Eric Stephenson, Simon Gane, and Jordie Bellaire. The grounded low-fi X-Men premise and teaser art look good, though I’ll admit being a little skeptical after the publishing schedule for Stephenson’s last project, Nowhere Men, totally derailed after much initial fanfare.
Oni Press has my two favorite titles from their line out this week, withWasteland #59 by Antony Johnston and Christopher Mitten (only one issue left of this series!), which is full of flashbacks depicting the run-up to “The Big Wet” and what created the post-apocalyptic world 100 years in the future, as well as Letter 44 #13 by Charles Soule and Alberto Alburquerque, which is often described as equal parts The West Wing and Independence Day, but I find it the most compelling because of the thinly veiled Obama and W analogues.
On the TPB front, I’m curious about Sunstone Vol. 1, a collection of much-buzzed about web-comics featuring an erotic romantic comedy set in the world of fetishism, seemingly grounding the BDSM subculture in an accessible and relatable way, all by creator Stjepan Sejic. There’s also the terrific Transformers vs. G.I. Joe Vol. 1 out from IDW Publishing, collecting the first arc by John Barber and Tom Scioli. If you’re a fan of either franchise, the 1980’s era in general, or Scioli’s work specifically, then this nostalgic indie comix invasion of Hasbro toy properties is required reading.