Brian Wood’s “DMZ” has never much been about Matty Roth, even though Matty has been the protagonist of nearly every story. Wood has given Matty some personality, some family conflict, some difficult choices, but after years of telling stories in the DMZ, Matty Roth is still one of Wood’s most thinly developed main characters. This is a comic that’s about its setting, and about the way this future New York affects its inhabitants.
And this three-issue arc that features almost no Matty Roth at all? It’s one of the best in the series’ 44-issue run.
In “No Future,” which ends here, a former NYPD officer — a man by name of Tony — acts as a kind of Brian Wood-filtered Punisher, gunning down the guilty and avenging the death of his wife and children. He’s not really anything like the Punisher at all, of course, but the framework of his “origin” is similar enough to notice. Last issue he put on some gear and marched into an apartment, gunning down an entire family. This issue is even more explosive.
But this vigilante is a member of an organization that’s part group therapy, part death cult. And unlike Frank Castle, Tony isn’t a stoic murderer, a maniac certain that his actions are just. No, he’s a man who has watched his wife and children trampled on evacuation day, powerless to stop the crowd that rioted and stomped on their fallen bodies. He’s a man who has suffered, who still suffers, and the mission he undertook last issue did nothing to ease his pain. It only increased his torment.
“DMZ” #44 is Tony’s final mission, a suicide mission, and his emotional pain permeates the issue.
Wood has been joined by Ryan Kelly — perhaps his most effective collaborator — on the “No Future” arc. Kelly and Wood have teamed on the underrated “New York Four,” the often sad and always beautiful “Local,” and the “Northlanders” arc with the biggest twist of the year. Here, Kelly evokes the crushing weight of New York City and the turmoil of this “hero” who is beyond redemption. The final few pages show Kelly at his best, and it’s a powerful closing scene.
I assume Matty Roth will take the spotlight again next issue, as Wood is unlikely to abandon his protagonist completely after so many issues. But I certainly didn’t miss Matty during this arc. Not when Wood had such a compelling story to tell.