The Massive #3: Unalaska

Brian Wood continues to build a very intriguing, if bleak, world of oceans for humanity to scavenge.

Andy Hunsakerby Andy Hunsaker

The Massive #3

Dark Horse Comics' The Massive has spent its first three "Landfall" issues building an incredibly thorough account of the end of civilization. As spelled out in my review of The Massive #1, a series of catastrophic events, collectively referred to as The Crash, have spelled disaster worldwide. The details of these phenomena have been intertwined with the story of the crew of the Kapital, a Kingston-class vessel of the environmentalist group called Ninth Wave, who are searching the tumultous oceans for any sign of their sister ship – the one for which the series is named.

The Massive #3 claims to be "Part Three of Three," but there has to be much more Massive to come, since far too many questions raised. It seems to be the Dark Horse style, as we've seen it with Hellboy and B.P.R.D. – each story arc gets its own series numbering. That makes it more difficult to follow the story in the proper order, but it does keep the numbering low, which is apparently what every comic maker wants nowadays. The notion that it won't take a lot of catching up for new readers is much more important than establishing longevity, it would seem.

This issue focuses Mag Nagendra, right-hand-man to and former private military contractor colleague of Captain Callum Israel, and he is also the resident hardass/badass who fights off a Siberian pirate incursion singlehandedly. This isn't really a series about action, though, despite sporting some. It's much more about ideas, and the repercussions of the end of the world – or at least the collapse of society. Callum's crew reaffirms their support of him, but they admit that they have no idea what their mission is anymore, now that the environment is beyond saving. That's up to the cap'n to figure out, once he finally manages to rendezvous with his missing crew member Mary, who helped ward off some of those pirates in the first chapter.

That point would be at a place they call "Unalaska," which is code for a secret U.S. Special Forces installation in Alaska called Nikolski, an area where the Cold War wasn't always so cold, and where a lot of "war material" has been located for years. While all that's happening, Mag and his dubious techie friend Georg have analyzed a particular device broadcasting The Massive's wavelength that seems to imply that The Crash might have had some extra-terrestrial roots.

That's something I'm not sure how to respond to. On one hand, yes, alien stories are often cool, and one with this solid a foundation in gritty realism could really work well. On the other hand, throwing spacefolk into the midst of said gritty realism could really deflate all the hard work writer Brian Wood has put into crafting it. It's possible I'm reading the entire thing wrong – maybe Georg doesn't know from fancy coding – and that's not the direction Wood is heading, but for now, I've got my reservations. I like this series as a study of the human condition enough that I'm not too keen on the notion of potential non-human activity going on.

The art from Kristian Donaldson remains fantastic, and much credit has to be given to Dave Stewart for the coloring as well – it's absolutely crucial to the storytelling here to pitch each panel in the right hue. Donaldson's detail is just as deep as Wood's. Every character feels real, which makes the moody bleakness of the state of the world that much more effective, even though the thrust of the series seems to be more about the maintenance of hope in the face of such adversity.

Despite it all, the crew of the Kapital still have purpose. They still have goals. They still want to make the world a better place. And more of The Massive would do just that for those of us in this particular reality.