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

The Story: Matty Roth reaches the US checkpoint, only to get assigned a new job and, perhaps, a second chance.

What’s Good: This issue features the sort of grand, sweeping gesture that manages to successfully represent an author working towards a well thought out conclusion to a long-running series.  Even though we’ve got another 12 issues or so to go, it’s clear that Wood setting up the status quo that will roll DMZ to its ending, which looks to be one that is fully organic and natural.

Wood essentially has Roth do something of a full circle, but it’s one of those beautiful rotations where, while the position may be similar, the participants most certainly are not.  Matty ends up in a place that’s quite close to where he was at when the series began but the bumbling, frantic Matty has been replaced by the grizzled, self-loathing, existentially befuddled Matty that we have now.  The result is a clash that is sure to bear fruit as already, the full circle rotation that Wood executes is elegant and sweeping.  Matty trims his beard away to resemble his old self, but really, this is a perfect representation by Wood:  the only things that are regressing to the past are the superficial and the circumstantial.

Much of this is executed via a gripping conversation between Matty and his father.  This is certainly something I appreciated, given how sparse Wood’s work can be at times.  It’s good to see him really hit the keyboard and show us some tight, dense dialogue.  It’s a further insight into Matty’s psyche, but I also appreciated how Wood better realizes Matty’s father, and later, his mother.  While I can’t call them good guys, they are no longer clear-cut sleazebags.  Much like his son, Matty’s father is a man trapped in crushing circumstances and we get inklings that, still, both parents care for their son, in whatever strange way.

On art, Burchielli’s work is at its usual standards.  Dense, desolate cities are there, but give way to great facial expressions, bang-on despite their gritty, cartoonist’s touch.

What’s Not So Good: This one depends on the reader, I think, particularly the reader’s patience.  Some might be frustrated with the fact that Wood is bringing Matty back to his original position.  Full narrative circles do aggravate some people, I know.  Then there’s the fact that the majority of this issue is spent on a single conversation, which again, could underwhelm some readers.  DMZ has certainly had its fair share of violence and gunfights and this issue isn’t that.

The only thing that I was a bit weirded out on was how, at the beginning of the issue, Soames was revealed to be wandering about, seemingly unscathed.  How he survived the giant blast last month, already improbable, is never detailed and as a result, it feels a bit awkward.  Even a line of dialogue providing some explanation, while still underwhelming, would’ve done some good.  Then again, it’s always been a pet peeve of mine when writers make it seem like a character is dead one month, only for it to be not the case in the next issue.  But alas, that’s the game of serial publication I guess.

Conclusion: If you’re patient and can appreciate the big picture, this is a great issue.

Grade: B+

-Alex Evans