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

The Story: Matt faces possibly the biggest decision of his life.

The Review:  If you’re a long-time reader of Brian Wood’s DMZ, this is the sort of issue that you read it for, the sort of issue that looks at hard, gritty reality, above and beyond all lofty idealism or abstract ideals.

With this issue ultimately hinging on a massive decision on Matty’s part, that being what to do with Parco’s evidence of the US’s charade, Wood is wise to anchor the book around Matty entirely.  He narrates throughout, and not only in the standard way we’re used to.  Wood opens with his usual newscast narration, but in a surprising twist on that, it turns out that the newscast is Matty’s.  That’s really, really cool stuff that showcases the new role that Matty finds himself in.  It also helps emphasize how heavily not just this issue, but the events within and the history that will result, revolve around him, that he’s the one shaping public perception and knowledge.

As I said though, strong, laser-like focus aside, this issue is all about that choice, and it’s expertly done.  Wood puts forth the fact that the pursuit and elevation of capital t “Truth, or similar abstract ideals, often conflict and don’t jive with what’s best.  Bold journalistic integrity clashes with pragmatism and the definition and nature of “the greater good” is challenged and reshaped by Wood.

Most interesting is Wood’s decision to use Zee as the vehicle to deliver this message.  Zee’s often been the beacon of integrity and, at times, idealism throughout this series, so for her to come down on exposing the truth in favour of ending the war as quickly as possible, and pointing out that the two aren’t one and the same, speaks volumes.  It’s a nice twist by Wood.

Ultimately, this is the sort of gritty, heavy issue that you expect from DMZ.  It’s a world, and a comic, where the right thing to do is often also the uglier thing.

This is best hammered home by Matty’s encounter with his father, which was such a strong scene due to its complete lack of emotion or significance.  Matty’s dad praises him for doing something monumental, his eyes tearing up in pride.  But the scene is so brief and Matty’s response so non-existent, that the whole thing feels hollow  Matty’s dad has never really approved of him, and as such, seeing him all teary-eyed should conjure up some emotion in the reader, yet it feels pointless.  That’s strong writing on Wood’s part, to be sure.

Art-wise, it’s Riccardo Burchielli on DMZ.  You know what to expect.  His characters look solid, his take on the city as good as ever.  The president’s looking like Bush threw me off a bit though.

Conclusion:  This is what you signed up for when you added DMZ to your pull-list, whenever-a-go.

Grade: A –

-Alex Evans