This month, “DMZ” joined “Hellblazer” and “Fables” as one of only three current Vertigo series to be in the 50-and-over crowd. And, with its fiftieth issue, author Brian has wisely taken advantage of people’s fascination with multiples of 25 to provide a stand-alone issue that sums up this series that is half political-thriller, half travelogue through a war-torn Manhattan.
Wood opens the issue with our protagonist Matty Roth (a journalist embedded in the demilitarized zone of Manhattan between the United States’ and the Free States of America’s armies) getting to observe an outsider’s attempts to bring a business into the DMZ. It’s a good way to open the issue, letting new readers journey briefly and quickly into the DMZ with a newbie, but it doesn’t belabor the points Wood tries to make. Rebekah Isaacs’ art is a little more muscular than I’m used to in “DMZ” (who knew Matty had six-pack abs?) but their collaboration is good enough that I’m looking forward to Wood and Isaacs’ upcoming “DV8” mini-series.
Fabio Moon illustrates a four-page silent story, “Little Plastic Toy,” which sums up the grimness of living within the DMZ itself, as well as using one of the supporting cast of the comic to strong effect. Moon’s soft art is a good counterpoint to the nasty situation that the story presents, and Cox using yellow as the only exception to the gray and pale blue shades in the story not only lets the deadliness in this piece stand out but is a strong statement on what it must be like to live in the middle of the front line of a new civil war.
Ryan Kelly steps up to the artistic plate next, with a short piece from Wood about how some people within the DMZ are trying to preserve what they can. It’s the sort of side trip that I’ve missed from the earliest issues, a reminder that this wasn’t just some wasteland that armies arrived in. Manhattan’s treasures may be scattered across the island (or in some cases gone entirely), but this moment of hope is a refreshing change. Wood and Kelly are familiar collaborators after their work on books like “Local” and “New York Four,” and this story might be short, but feels rich.
Regular series artist Riccardo Burchielli tackles the fourth story, shifting Matty Roth into New Jersey for a meeting with the leader of the Free States of America movement on the East Coast. As the ones who kicked off the war, the Free States are an organization that are integral to the series, and it’s refreshing to get to see one of the heads of the group. It’s an important moment for the series, but it simultaneously serves as a good hook for a new reader as well. It lets them hear directly from one of the sides of the civil war, provided he’s telling the truth. The veracity of what we hear in the story is certainly up for debate, even as it potentially maps out the next moves from the organization and how they plan to consolidate power. It’s a great story hook, even as it’s something that in many ways is the background to the story of the DMZ itself.
“DMZ” #50 closes out with a story drawn by John Paul Leon, a glimpse at how those who succeed within the DMZ are doing so. It’s another slice-of-life story, showing that even as many slide towards oblivion, others are rising up with power and turning portions of the DMZ into a new kingdom of sorts. The character of Wilson has always been one of my favorites, so focusing on the protector of Chinatown is reason to cheer. Having Leon draw the story, with his sharp lines and great attention to detail and backgrounds, is the icing on the cake.
“DMZ” #50 succeeds admirably, both to provide something for new readers as well as entertain existing fans of the book. If you’re still not convinced, Wood also wrote a series of character blurbs, pairing them all with connected stories. And of course, since this is a comic, the blurbs all have a beautiful portrait draw by some of the big names in comics: Jim Lee, Lee Bermejo, Phillip Bond, Eduardo Risso, and Dave Gibbons.
Now this? This is the way to hit 50.