The Massive #30 arrives in stores this week from Dark Horse Comics, marking the conclusion of the critically-acclaimed series by Brian Wood, Garry Brown, and Jordie Bellaire. To help celebrate this special occasion, I thought I’d spotlight the Top 10 Covers for the series, which ended up feeling like picking from an embarrassment of riches. Fair Warning: John Paul Leon provided most of the series covers (aside from #1, the $1 reprint of #1, and a trio of variants by Rafael Grampa), so this is likely to turn into a JPL love letter. But, that’s ok, despite having worked in the industry for decades, he’s still an artist deserving of more widespread praise.
8, 9 and 10. The Massive #10, #11, #12
I’m grouping these three images together for the final slot on the list because they’re connecting covers. John Paul Leon did a couple sets of these triptychs in The Massive, but I think this one is the strongest. It’s not easy doing a set of covers. They have to be strong enough to stand on their own and not look like a stray puzzle piece, they have to not come off like hoary pin-up art, and they also need to form a cohesive image that works given the context of the series (especially important for this trilogy with interior art by three different artists – Gary Erskine, Declan Shalvey, and Danijel Zezelj). Spoiler Alert: He Nails It! The holistic image captures the warfare and strife that occurs post-Crash, specific elements in the stories like the Megalodons and the helicopter, all while providing a nice layered aesthetic with the hull outline of the ship in the background. It’s just gorgeous.
7. The Massive #13
Fans of Brian Wood know that fervent love for New York City is a bit of connective tissue that runs through many of his projects, so it was great seeing The Massive take a trip there in the “Americana” arc. Not only does this JPL image work by tapping our collective post-9/11 paranoia about large scale disasters, and tap into the aforementioned love for NYC that the writer uses, it speaks volumes about the extent of The Crash and what it’s done to the world of The Massive. It’s simultaneously a relatively simple image, but one that speaks post-apocalyptic volumes about the intentions of the book.
6. The Massive #26
This is John Paul Leon’s cover homage to Michelangelo Buonarroti’s famous sculpture “La Pieta,” currently residing in St. Peter’s Basilica. Now, I’m not a very religious dude, but I’ve stood there in front of this sculpture in Vatican City on a couple occasions and it’s impossible not to be moved by the solemn power of the thing. JPL does a riff that varies the viewer angle and isn’t overt enough to be an outright swipe, uses a sketchy background quality to make the world feel like it’s losing all cohesion, and captures the thematic similarities between enigmatic Mary in The Massive and the heartbreak of The Virgin Mary that the Italian Renaissance artist depicted.
5. The Massive #5
The minute I saw this John Paul Leon cover, I remember thinking that it was just such an intensely cool shot. It’s interesting that Mary is front and center on this cover, because the first of many clues about the character’s true nature first appeared in this issue. I like that she has the big snow jacket on, it actually humanizes her in a way that belies what the series will ultimately reveal about her. The pop of crimson coloring against that deep blue background, the slightly forced perspective and camera angle, the body positioning of her and Ryan, yeah, it’s just a beautifully composed image.
4. The Massive #27
I love this image. It’s a piece by John Paul Leon that completely transcends the world of comic books and sequential art and penetrates that pretentious world of Fine Art. It’s not just about the reveal of (the ship) The Massive looming in the distance, totally eclipsing the size of the Ninth Wave command ship, The Kapital. Most importantly, it’s done in a very painterly style that, if you know your 19th Century American Art Movements, channels the naturalistic landscapes and oil paintings of the Hudson River School, particularly with that glimmering moonlight. It’s a piece I’d love to own.
3. The Massive #1 ($1 Reprint)
Dark Horse offers these #1 for $1 reprints and most of them are fairly standard affairs, but Brian Wood took the opportunity to offer something a little different. It’s rare we ever get to see original art from the writer these days, so getting a custom designed Brian Wood cover was fantastic. It has an infographic quality about it, with the inverted ship letting us know the world has gone all topsy-turvy, bio pics of the three main characters, a timeline of key events involved in “The Crash,” and just top shelf design sensibility that underscores some of the core thematic elements.
2. The Massive #1
This is just such a striking image, one which highlights the design sense of Brian Wood and Kristian Donaldson (who also provided art for the first 3-issue arc). I love that pale red enveloping the globe, emphasizing a toxic poisoning of Planet Earth, there’s that vibrant little lens flare on the lower left of the page suggesting we’ll see some action, and the diminutive figure scale of the characters in the lower foreground, which lends a sense of helplessness in the face of such dramatic climate change. It’s all there, all the elements needed to let readers know what they’re initially getting into with this series.
1. The Massive #28
I picked this John Paul Leon cover for the top slot because if you knew what you were doing, you’d probably be able to extrapolate the meaning of the entire series from this single image. It totally exemplifies the journey of the series and the ultimate reveal in the “Ragnarok” arc. We see main characters Callum Israel, Mag Nagendra, and Ryan Porter, while Mary is purposely now absent, there’s a sense of the nautical adventure, our POV makes us feel like we’re part of the crew experiencing the culminating drama, and the imposing nature of the exodus of “The Slabs” demands our full attention.
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