Written by Amanda Pampuro
“Bombing for peace is like fucking to save virginity.” A crass but apt metaphor, and through Volume 1 of The Massive, Cal’s crew keeps the protest honest. Even in a Water World scenario, where civilization has fallen and flooded, Cal maintains passive resistance to violence.
From Dark Horse Comics, The Massive is a story about boats at sea. Boom. That’s all folks. The Massive is a missing ship and the Kapital is looking for it. Brian Wood and Kristen Donaldson’s graphic novel is set post-Crash—their term for a series of landscape altering natural disasters. Money is as useful as any other kind of paper, so for all intents and purposes, currency is dealt in blood and bullets. But the real conflict is the existential crisis the Kapital must now grapple with—the ship’s mission had been to save the world by protecting the ocean, but how do you save the world, when by most people’s definition, the world has already ended?
“It is a tough world for a pacifist who throws guns into the sea…I wish you luck” says the Somalian war lord who kidnaps the ship’s captain, Callum Israel. Still Callum insists that nothing has changed, because the world still needs peace. Is carrying on this mission noble? Stupid? Self-righteous?
In some ways, Cal stands in the shoes of Sherriff Rick Grimes—after all, both men were thrown into a post-apocalyptic world and reluctantly given the helm. Except while Rick descends into darkness, Cal fights to keep a grip the sunbathed rooftops. While this genre seems to always test how its heroes in terms of suffering, The Massive shows that good men do survive.
At least so far.
I don’t know where this comic is going—which is part of what makes it interesting. After all, as Cal is tested, upon his shoulders sit two angels: Mary holding onto the old ways, and Mag who is strangely adapted for the new world violence. I don’t know if Cal will slowly consent to guns for self-defense and then for seeking supplies, but I find it really interesting to have a hero maintain this sense of do-good. Despite Cal’s strong respect for the ocean, I fear he might fail and instead be dragged to the bottom of the post-modern Marianas Trench.
Still I’ve been realizing that, no matter your cause, there will be a multitude of forces working against you. If you are a writer, you are one in twenty-million. If you are a pacifist, in a world with nuclear weapons and globalized propaganda, most people will tell say you’re too late or too small. Through improbable odds and countless remedial tasks, the world will challenge every être de raison you find. So, when Cal says in the aftermath of the Crash, nothing has changed, the mission remains the same, what he says to us, dear readers, is that the pacifist mission—or whatever white whale you are hunting—will always have violence and hunger standing in its way. The more worthy the cause, the greater the resisting circumstances. But the battle remains the same.
Unless he’s been too long a drift at sea…
One of the most haunting aspects of The Massive is its calm images of the sea and sky, captioned with unadorned statistics about death rates and destruction. And compared to others in the genre, this has surprisingly little character drama. The action seems focused on the battles for peace in the middle of the violent ocean.
I am enjoying this series and find that setting the story on a ship was a smart move construction, because it lets the reader move around the world and see the world in panorama, in a way that makes sense. Also, I’m giving Wood and Donaldson the benefit of doubt that they didn’t name the comic Pretty Big for a reason—you don’t call your work Massive unless you have something great thing in store for it.