It's the beginning of the end of just about everything, as the first of the six-part "Ragnarok" arc begins in "The Massive" #25 by Brian Wood and Garry Brown. "Ragnarok" is slated to be the series' final storyline, as the ill, weary, and haggard-looking protagonist Callum Israel looks to distance himself from his activist ways and try to quietly live out his remaining last days. It appears to be the end of the world as well, as increasingly strange scientific and weather phenomena continue to pound at a world already devastated by climate change and near-total collapse of political and social order.
As the series begins a tumultuous journey to its stormy conclusion, Wood ensures that his story's sea legs are stronger than ever. Wood's story continues to focus on the crew of The Kapital, part of a sea-faring activist group known as The Ninth Wave, whose search for their missing sister ship The Massive remains an ever-elusive goal in a world where mere survival is a challenge. The tension is now stepped up, though, as Wood reveals that the cataclysmic events, collectively referred to as The Crash, that have laid the world low are not only not over with, but are increasing in severity.
One consistent highlight of the series has been Wood's strategically-placed flashbacks throughout that over the course of the series have explained the precise events and occurrences that comprised The Crash. Wood continues that story-enhancing strategy here, only now it carries a far bigger sense of foreboding because these dangerous happenings are taking place in the present, and not in the safety of the past. As satellites plunge to earth and random lightning strikes ensure that nowhere is safe, the cold and relative comfort of a ruined world where the worst is believed to be over gives way to a far more perilous one when it turns out that the worst is actually yet to come.
Amidst the increasingly apocalyptic tone of the issue, though, Wood counters this with a more personal story as Israel begins to truly confront, and perhaps succumb, to his mortality. There are no confrontations with bandits or standoffs with ad-hoc government bodies here; instead, nature serves as the true enemy rather than man as the new arc begins, and is brought to the forefront rather than serving as a backdrop. As the crew of The Kapital attempts to figure out how to deal with a totally different kind of adversary, Israel is drawn to a former mate and deals with a surprise of his own. The political overtones, which have served this series well throughout, are put aside for more personal ones in this issue, and Wood manages to craft an even better story from them.
Brown continues doing what he has done best throughout the series: rendering a planet torn asunder with a kind of cold, emotionless feel that highlights the notion that mankind is losing this world. Colorist Jordie Bellaire does the same, sticking with subdued tones that highlight what a grey and bleak world this has become. Monotones differentiate the pages revealing the continuing nature of The Crash, while multiple but quieted tones are used throughout the main story. It's far from pretty, but appropriate for a world that is ever becoming an uglier and uglier place.
"The Massive" #25 is a tense and well-constructed beginning for what appears to be an inevitable end. While not intended for new readers, this is the last jumping-on point of the series and is accessible enough as such.