Writer: Brian Wood
Artist(s): Danijel Zezelj, Jeromy Cox (c)
Publisher: DC / Vertigo
Two things I learned prior to reading this issue had me very excited about cracking open the covers. First, Danijel Zezelj is the guest artist, and I am a fan of his gritty work on Loveless. Second, issue #25 is an examination of Wilson, the Chinatown crime lord, and his rise to power from the beginning of the war (I love gangster fiction!). I knew this was an issue that couldnít possibly miss, since all of the stand-alone issues of this series have been terrific. Well, ďWilsonĒ didnít quite do it for me, and I think a lot of it has to do with a lack of dramatic zest by Brian Wood. In most of the stand-alones he has written throughout his fine career, Wood has introduced an emotional center that drives the entire story, causing the reader to feel a connection to or revulsion from the character in the spotlight. With ďWilsonĒ, Woodís story had me feeling indifferent about this influential man in the DMZ. The story started off great, with a scene involving Wilson and his illegitimate child. Wilson is displayed early on as a man of conflicting emotions and sensibilities, so I was expecting more of this kind of analysis. However, the rest of the issue is a series of flashbacks that donít offer much insight into this character, and certainly not an emotional thread to hang on to.
As I mentioned, Wilson is the head of the Chinatown district in the DMZ, where he rules his neighborhood like Joey T in Summer of Sam; ruthlessness, fascism, and loyalty are the keys to the game. Add to this audacity, which Wilson displays after barely escaping a terrorist attack in Chinatown. This act causes Wilson, a small-time hood, to kill his superiors and bluntly take control of his neighborhood. The best line in the comic states, ďIím not a gangster. This war is going to be gangster.Ē Wilson creates a military state in Chinatown that has everyone else in New York fearing his neighborhood, creating a security and isolationism that he so desperately craved. However, now he is bored with what his Chinatown has become, so he sets his sights on the entire city, which will surely lead into a storyline in the near future. This synopsis makes issue #25 sound better than it actually was, or so I think. Mainly, itís a lot of little snippets of development and action that donít yield an overall emotional response. The center of ďWilsonĒ is scene-to-scene narration by a crime boss that is very stereotypical. Granted, I donít think Wood should have every character in this series reveal some remarkable or unique personality trait that wows his readers. However, creating a whole issue about a character that really doesnít have any relatable qualities is ineffective, unless this issue was leading directly into a new story arc. But, knowing that this run of one-shots featuring DMZ denizens will continue for the foreseeable future, this issue comes about at the wrong time, leaving me with a sour taste in my mouth after a string of two very good one-shots.
The other element that disappointed me in this issue was the impact of guest artist Zezelj, whose gritty style should have worked well in this comic. I donít know if itís because Iím so used to Riccardo Burchielliís work or not, but Zezeljís artwork didnít have the same emotional power that Iím used to in a DMZ issue, which exacerbated my overall problems with this installment. For the most part, faces are blobs of lines that rarely show the constructions of eyes, mouths, and facial structure, which really prevented me from seeing a characterís emotional state. For me, this is a big deal. Characters in comics are a synergy of art and dialogue, and when both of those elements are not pulling their weight, the characters become unsympathetic and ultimately boring. I found myself not caring in the least for Wilson, whether as an anti-hero or a future villain in the series.
Fortunately for regular readers of DMZ, we know that Wood will deliver the goods in future issues, so thereís no reason to panic about this lackluster one-shot.
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