Writer: Brian Wood
Artists: Riccardo Burchielli & Brian Wood
Publisher: DC Comics/Vertigo
I do believe I'm warming to this series. Perhaps it's because the past couple of issues have been more focused on the stranger inhabitants of the DMZ, and the weird stuff that happens there, rather than the overweening hipness that plagued earlier issues. In this issue, protagonist Matty Roth's press badge and jacket are stolen, and he's forced to pursue the thief on foot through some of the more dangerous and strange parts of war torn New York. This allows Brian Wood to introduce us to a number of weird and wonderful concepts, and while the whistle-stop pace means that all we get are very superficial looks, it's good to see more of the setting, which is one of the big strengths of the book (yes, even if Judge Dredd has been doing the same stuff for twenty years). Another strength is the art of Riccardo Burchielli, who perfectly sets the tone with his style; the gritty, rough-edged aspect fits the idea of a warzone while the cartoony exaggeration reflects the lunacy of the entire situation. And the Public Enemy hoodie Roth wears is a stroke of genius given the premise of the story.
This issue is not without its problems, however. I may be missing some attempt at Dumboesque irony, but if Roth's jacket and badge are all that's keeping him safe, then he's doing well to be able to follow the thief across Manhattan without suffering a single scratch. And I thought last issue was a one-off, but Wood is showing a disturbing tendency to rely on plot contrivances, with a couple of particular howlers cropping up here, most notably the deus ex machina ending. Wood also seems to be far too enamoured of Roth, but the character remains about as well-defined as a plate of mash potatoes made with too much milk, and whatever his attractive qualities, we as readers are not party to them. If Roth is to remain a cypher, then I'd prefer Wood to spend more time fleshing out the DMZ itself, rather then spend so much time on the protagonist.
Brian Wood has a good title on his hands here, but I think he needs to take a step back and decide on his narrative focus. The ill-defined protagonist is getting too much screen time at the expense of what's really good about this book, and that's the fascinating setting.
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