The Massive Library Edition Volume 1 by Brian Wood

The Massive Library Edition is a large size, luxury compilation of the first part of this Eisner-award winning dystopian series. There are a lot of ideas here – explorations of environmental disasters, humanity, and love/loss. Author Wood reaches deep and wide; and though it is a very uneven series, it definitely keeps a reader riveted. This compilation does end abruptly and without much resolution of the plot. But the broad, sweeping nature of this pan-global story means there is a lot to explore.

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Story: Captain Callum Israel, former paramilitary drone who developed a conscience and respect for the ocean, captains the ‘Greenpeace’ type ship, The Kapital. They do so in a world that is reeling from massive environmental disasters – hurricanes, earthquakes, typhoons, volcanic eruptions, etc. In this near-future, Hong Kong and New York City are underwater (the latter completely abandoned), oil and gas are currency, and world order has completely broken down. The Kapitol is searching for its sister ship, the Massive, which mysteriously disappeared and occasionally shows up on radar and then vanishes again. Callum navigates the world, trying to uphold nonviolence and conservation ideals in a world devolving into brutality and lawlessness. His crew is giving up hope, fracturing, and Callum’s only ally is Mary – his mysterious lover.

Most of the story follows Callum’s journey in the search for the Massive – taking him around the globe and encountering various situations. From pirates to warlords, separationists to rebels. Callum faces betrayal from within and without as he acquires needed supplies. Wood plumbs many depths here and each political situation encountered by Callum is unique and quite involved. It makes for very distinct storytelling on many levels.

Similarly, the characters are nuanced and carefully developed throughout the story. Some stay loyal, some rebel, some leave, and others change/grow as the Kapital encounters a world greatly changed within only a few short years of time. As the story progresses, the hopelessness of constantly missing the Massive as well as the mystery of Mary and just who (or what) she is take their toll on the crew and captain.

At times, it can feel preachy and overwritten. Yet there is a lot of subtlety here – a discretion needed considering the obviousness of the overarching messages of environmental mishandling. Clearly, the ocean is the main character of the story and it is the ocean who is guiding/hindering/manipulating the Kapital and its crew. It could have been pretentious but clever writing saves this from becoming trite or dreary.

The art design is effective and I appreciate the choices made among the characters and all their various nationalities. But it is also very inconsistent, starting out strong but losing momentum further in. But these first several issues did receive an Eisner Award for coloring.

I found The Massive fascinating and although I know the story takes some fantastical leaps in the next volume, I do greatly looking forward to finishing the story. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.

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