by Brian Wood (writer), Ryan Kelly (art), Jeromy Cox (colors), and Jared K. Fletcher (letters)

The Story: The gas-mask wearing death cult who inhabit the Empire State Building are examined from the perspective of one of its members, a former police officer.

What’s Good: This is not a happy comic. In fact, it’s downright miserable. If you want a light adrenaline ride, go pick up this week’s issue of Action Comics or the Flash:Rebirth. If however, you want something tough as nails and heavy as a stone, this is an issue to consider.

The strongest thing about DMZ #42 is its tone. Brooding, traumatizing, and pitch dark, this comic develops its mood perfectly. A key reason for this is the incredibly distinct, genuine, and hard-biting internal monologue, which plays to Wood’s great ability in establishing engaging narrators.

This is a remarkably cerebral book. Its focus on the manipulation of trauma and cult mechanics is outstanding and neither heavy-handed nor ham-fisted, despite the weight of the comic. It feels thorough, accurate, honest, and completely terrifying. One-part support group, one-part Nazi-styled “I was following orders” mentality, the cult is frightening stuff, yet it’s also made plausible by Wood. The examination of cult-mentality is especially good due to how gradual it is; it takes even the reader a while to realize the incredibly structured mental manipulation that is occurring, let alone the characters.

Plot-wise, I always like it when writers look at an event from early on in their series from a completely different perspective. I also have to quickly mention the final scene of the book, which is simply beautiful. An emotionally heavy moment, it goes to show just how well symbolism and metaphor can work in a comic.

Art-wise, Ryan Kelly does a great job. The images of the city are gorgeous and Kelly gives the comic an incredibly dark feel that matches its story perfectly. I can’t imagine a better artist working on this arc. There’s a strong “indie/stylized” flavour here, but it’s not at all overbearing or dominant. It achieves a perfect balance of style, detail, and grit.

What’s Not So Good: This comic does what it does very well, but it may not be what some DMZ readers were hoping for. This comic does not advance the main storyline of the series. Matty Roth is nowhere to be seen, nor are any of DMZ’s main characters. This is simply a standalone arc explaining a particular sect of the city, a side-story if you will.

Also, a bit of a minor quibble, but occasionally it can be a bit hard to distinguish the main character when everyone’s wearing a gas mask and similar clothing.

Conclusion: A hard-hitting examination of psychological manipulation and cult construction in a warzone that is, and promises to be, tragically beautiful in its unfolding.

Grade: B+

-Alex Evans

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