by Brian Wood (writer), Riccardo Burchielli (art), Jeromy Cox (colors), and Travis Lanham (letters)

The Story: The DMZ is invaded by US troops, Parco is nowhere, and Matty learns a hard lesson.

What’s Good: This series has regained its sense of pace and energy.  US soldiers take to the streets and cause all sorts of mayhem.  Their impact on the DMZ is definitely felt, as Wood manages to portray the DMZ as being cut up and divided by occupying troops, with “block commanders” and all.

The best part of this issue though is a scene that is probably the biggest development of the month, where Matty attempts to negotiate with US troops using his old press pass.  What occurs is a very poignant, savage reminder that we are nearing the end of this series and that as such, we are a long ways past “Matty the journalist.”  Wood’s been trying to deliver this point for some time now, what with Roth’s leading commando teams and such, but he really sinks the nail this month.  More importantly, this time around, Matty himself is forced to fully acknowledge his change in status, as he receives a brutal lesson that beats out his naive belief that he could have it both ways.  Certainly, this lesson has been a long time coming, and when it finally happens, it’s abrupt, savage, and uncompromising.

Beyond that, the series ending is certainly a strong one.  A fan favourite character finally meets up with Matty again and Wood seems to be writing Matty as something of a tragic hero.  While he’s had one sort of naivety/immaturity beaten out of him, that’s simply caused him to move on to another, even worse immaturity.  And while this one’s a little closer to the reality of what he is now, it’s also shaping up to turn him into the very thing he’s always hated: a blood-maddened, irrational warlord.

What’s Not-so-Good: While it’s not as bad as the rest of this arc has been, this still feels like a chapter in a graphic novel.  While the events are major, Wood takes a leisurely approach to the issue and as such, nothing feels as satisfying as it should.  Wood seems inclined to continue his grand narrative gestures, what with radio broadcasts, speeches, and relatively insignificant dialogue taking quite a number of pages.  The result is that the most significant and interesting events of the book all take place in its final pages.

I also found the writing of the United States, particularly its soldiers, to be a bit weak.  It’s certainly not something he’s never been guilty of before, but Wood is damned determined to portray the United States as the “big brother” bully and the beleaguered New Yorkers as the tough survivors.  What results is his making the United States and its soldiers completely and utterly one-dimensional.  They’re bad guys, they’re evil, they’re thugs, and they’re even mass murderers.  They’re the bad guys in every single way and Wood is utterly uncompromising and sees no reason to add complexity or depth to them.  I can’t help but feel that Wood is trying desperately to build a straw man here.

The American soldiers Matty converses with are way over the top, bordering on unbelievable, in their brutish jackassery.  And early on in the issue, there’s a “God Bless America” that is far too heavy-handed in its malevolence.

It’s a shame to see Wood regress to such standard dichotomies of good and evil.

Conclusion: It’s an eventful issue, but Wood falls prey to needing “good guys” and “bad guys.”

Grade: C+

-Alex Evans