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

The Story: Matty Roth begins his hazardous journey across the DMZ.

What’s Good: For a second month, Wood focuses on Matty’s current state of desperation, isolation, and self-pity.  This time around, however, he does it in a much more dynamic an effective manner.  The meat of this issue sees an extended chase sequence, when Matty meets the wrong end of a bizarre hunter and his pack of dogs.

The chase is beautiful in its metaphorical power.  It is the perfect representation of Matty’s current state and situation.  This becomes all the more clear due to the surreal elements of the scene.  The hunter is nameless and never once says a word.  Meanwhile, his dogs are intelligent and so relentless that it almost defies suspension of disbelief.  In other words, you know that there’s more going on here.  The whole thing feels nightmarish in its strangeness, while maintaining the desperation and tension of a good chase.

This is clearly as much a physical struggle as it is a mental, internal one.  It’s a perfect manifestation of Matty’s inner turmoil and how he views his current status.  I could not imagine a better way for Wood to get across the current themes, and mood, centered around his protagonist.  This is absolutely genius stuff that strays just a little from the series’ usual gritty realism, but not so far off course that it feels wrong or out of place.

With Matty plotting his journey across the DMZ with maps aplenty, as he’s chased by dogs and forced to dash across the broken landscape of NYC, this is a study of tension and desperation with a touch of horror.  It’s all the better thanks to Burchielli’s barren landscapes and scrawled maps.

What’s Not So Good: While I’m always happy about good plot progression in DMZ, in this case, if things are as they appear, the plot may be moving a bit too quickly.  The ending suggests that Matty’s time in isolation is already over and that he’ll be returning to the Delgado fold much sooner than anticipated.  Given how great that chase sequence was, I think there’s still a lot more to explore in Matty’s current status and I think that Wood may be readjusting the status quo a bit too soon.  I wanted to see Roth struggle on a lonely journey across the DMZ and it looks like I may be robbed of that.

Once again, a substantial amount of the issue is also accompanied by that Liberty News narration.  It’s a frequent tool on Roth’s part, but given the introspective nature of this issue, I would’ve preferred if the whole thing was narrated by Matty instead.  The Liberty News stuff is just a bit too dry and detached for an issue that is, and should be, personal in nature.

Conclusion: Another solid outing in the DMZ.

Grade: B

-Alex Evans