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

The Story: Wilson faces the destruction Chinatown and is faced with a hard choice.

What’s Good: Wilson has long been a favourite character of mine in Brian Wood’s DMZ, and I doubt that I’m the only one.  The character is a perfect balance of unassuming and intimidating.  Thus, the fact that this is a one-shot centered on Wilson already puts this issue in my good books.

Certainly, this is a strong outing for Wood.  The tone is brooding and heavy, while also fatigued and worn out.  There’s a constant sense of Wilson’s burden, as the story has a crushing, unrelenting sort of weight and pressure to it.  Some might say that this issue is slow-moving or ponderous, or that not enough happens, but I’m inclined to say that that’s the point.  It creates a despairing atmosphere of doom and “heavy lies the crown,” which is far more effective than a running gunfight could ever be.

The plot, centered around Wilson’s precarious position in the war’s current state, is also solid and it’s refreshing to see a one-shot like this be so in line with the series’ current continuity.  The hard choice Wilson is faced with is a great touch by Wood; it painfully defines Wilson’s position in Chinatown, not just for us, but for the character himself.  Essentially, he is forced to choose between the actual responsibilities that his leadership position entails and the pride and ego that not only arises because of that position, but are fundamental parts of it.  It’s a crushing, though elegant, conflict of doing what a leader should do versus being what a leader should be, and the extent to which these two things are the same, yet different.  Suffice it to say, the climax of this all is touching, powerful, and, as is suited for Wilson, both grandiose and resigned.

Nathan Fox’s art is a natural fit for the series.  His work is certainly different from Burchielli’s, but it’s not a big leap.  It’s scratchier and perhaps a little more hectic, but he does as good a job with DMZ as Burchielli does month in and month out, and that’s praise enough.

What’s Not So Good: While Wood is normally flawless when it comes to his one-shots and shorter arcs, it seemed as though he tried to do just a tad too much with this issue.  With only one issue to work with, it seemed that Wood wanted to delve into Wilson’s past as much as his current predicament and, unfortunately, I feel like the former suffers.  Wood tries to tie the two together at one point, but it doesn’t feel quite as significant or meaningful as it should.

Really, that’s how I felt about the majority of these flashbacks – none of them carried as much weight as they should have, and it felt like a great deal of potential wasn’t capitalized on.  With the space that it was allotted, however, I can’t see how Wood could’ve done better, however.

Still, these scenes ended up feeling a little random, and hence light.  They end up not packing the punch or the meaning that retrospect flashbacks should.  It’s the first time we’ve ever seen the young Wilson, and yet I don’t feel that these little moments told us much that we didn’t already know about the character.  If anything, the present day portions were more illuminating.

Conclusion: Wood is at his best with one-shots and shorter arcs, and this issue of DMZ does not buck that trend.

Grade: B

-Alex Evans