"The Massive" #3 is a smart comic easily using the monthly format to deliver static images of character development while building a very dynamic narrative. The overarching story is that of the members of Ninth Wave, an environmentalist group, who sail the ravaged seas of Earth in their ship, Kapital, looking for their lost sister ship The Massive. This issue ends the introductory three-issue arc and while the immediate threat of pirates is closed, there is still plenty of juicy narrative left open.
For a comic with a high focus on environmentalist concepts and deep character moments, there's a lot of gunfire and stabbing in these opening pages. Brian Wood reminds readers he can pen an action sequence while showcasing the motivation behind every strike of aggression. Wood doesn't layer in bombastic scenes just for the thrill -- he uses it as a tool to unlock further understanding of the people and their world. It is a delight to see a book that can appeal so viscerally while still bringing erudition to these actions and sequences.
The main focus of this issue is Mag Nagendra, the man "who got things done." Amidst a ship full of volunteers with high ideals, Mag steps out of their line to ensure they can stay straight and honest. Backstory fills readers in on how Mag is able to act in such a detached manner as well as why the crew needs him. Exploring Mag and his role is also a means to further understand the mindset of the founder of Ninth Wave, Callum Israel. Even a war for a pacifist cause is still a war -- a sad, yet painfully true fact, which will be intriguing to chart as the series continues.
Wood employs multiple levels of storytelling in this book to tie together a cohesive whole. Flashbacks fill in the lives of characters while also giving further hints to the way the world was and how it is now. There are even standalone pages that act simply to illustrate exactly how the world fell apart. These pages enrich the world, stand well apart from the narrative, yet it never feels like the book sacrifices story for information. Wood is a master of blurring the line between a lesson and a fable.
Kristian Donaldson conducts this orchestra of style and sophistication like a mastermind switching from photo reference to a more simplistic line depending on the necessity of the scene. His landscapes and backgrounds are amazingly detailed and well thought out and his characters still inhabit this world like comic creations. As lifelike as the world is, the men and women of "The Massive" never feel stilted. Donaldson then ties these two disparate styles together with great help from Dave Stewart's colors.
"The Massive" #3 caps off the opening salvo from this book and solidifies its stance as one of the boldest and smartest books to drop in 2012. If you are after a novel-style comic with great arcs that build to really mean something then you need to jump on this book with both feet. "The Massive" is a perfect personification of everything Brian Wood does so well with the sequential form over time.