Beginning the book's second story arc, "The Massive" #4 switches gears and takes the bulk of the action off the title's primary vessel, The Kapital, and puts the story on land.
After the reasonably fast-paced action-oriented opening of the series, this chapter slams on the brakes for something a bit more pensive and philosophical. The shadow of Wood's previous politically-charged thriller "DMZ" is draped over this issue. The centerpiece of the story sees two characters meeting at a community formed in the ruins of the city, with big things at stake and small character moments teasing more about the principal cast.
The majority of the issue follows Captain Callum Israel, one of the book's main characters. Wood gives a better look at the post-collapse world in which Israel operates, the world from which he came and what helped shape him into the person he is today. It's heavy stuff, and although we've seen Wood write feel-good comics in the past, this falls into his "grimly realistic" genre. In many ways, it would be easier to swallow if it was just openly cynical about the world and the people in it, but sadly it's all a little too real.
With this issue, launch artist Kristian Donaldson makes way for Garry Brown, who employs a more minimalist and impressionist style. The feel of the book remains the same, however, with Dave Stewart's colour palette retaining the same selection of blues, greys and browns that made the first issues so instantly distinctive. It's nothing short of fantastic to look at.
It's fair to say that even four issues in, we're barely scratched the world of "The Massive". Even supplemental material and timelines can't convey the scale of the world's alterations, and even when Wood piles the details on, it seems to raise more questions than it answers (in a good way). That's not to say there are "Lost"-style mysteries. It's more a result of what we see being so well-imagined and well-rendered that each piece of the puzzle somehow suggests a bunch of new ones we'd never imagined.
As usual, Brian Wood and his collaborators have turned in an issue they can be pleased with. Many a creator-owned series has lost its footing by the time the first few issues are out of the way, and the draw of the book's concept has had to concede audience attention to the plot and characters, but "The Massive" #4 is as fresh as it ever was. Encouragingly good.