Review: DMZ

In the wake of 9/11 the major comic book companies put out tribute books featuring their heroes present at Ground Zero, partaking in the grief and pain of the moment. Much like the citizens of America, as the agenda of the current adminstration became apparent and the country began to experience quite an ideological divide it became a matter of time before the comics reflected that. The most mainstream example would be Marvel’s Civil War event of last year wherein the heroes are divided into one government-supported team while the others must live in the shadows. It was a good story but definitely very cautious of stepping over any sort of line. DMZ is definitely not afraid of that.

Published by DC Comics’ “Mature Readers” imprint Vertigo, DMZ is the creation of writer/inker Brian Wood and penciller Riccardo Burchielli and as of this week has twenty-three issues to its name. From the first issue we’re thrown into the midst of a familiar but terrifying vision of what could be. New York City has become the center of an uprising in America. A group of insurgents calling themselves the Free States of American began a march across the country that ended in New Jersey with a standoff against the American military. Now the FSA have control of “New Jersey and inland” while the Army has hunkered down into Long Island and boroughs like Queens. Its never specified how much territory the FSA control and I have a feeling this will play a role later in the series. 9/11 is a constant prescence in the film. It’s referenced constantly through graffiti, through characters’ remarks, and through the fact that Ground Zero is the one place everyone claims they won’t commit acts of violence at.

The series follows Matty Roth, the son of a government official who gets an internship with Liberty News and is brought into the DMZ (De-Militarized Zone) which is what we would call Manhattan. Its the one place between the FSA and the American government where neither has a foothold. Matty’s press entourage is ambushed and he survives with help from Zee, a female med student who stayed behind in the DMZ to help care for the people who were unable to evacuate.Through Zee, Matty learns bits and pieces of the history of this world. Wood uses the fact that Matty comes from the traditional American side of things ,and sets the character up as fairly apathetic, to explode our conception of this world. Matty is learning just how bad everything is as we do as he becomes Liberty News’ unofficial embedded correspondant.

Wood does an excellent job of refraining from taking sides in the series. The tactics of both sides are shown to be questionable. The American forces use Blackhawk helicopters to attack residential areas of the DMZ under suspicion of insurgent activity while the FSA employ more covert but just as harmful tactics. The series has already tackled issues like the role of the media in wartime, suicide bombers, and private contracting. The private contracting storyline is one of the most brutal as the Trustwell corporation is hired to rebuild some of the damaged areas of the DMZ. The UN brings in peacekeeping forces who evacuate after a series of insurgent bombings so Trustwell dispatches its own private security force who employ vile tactics in interrogation. It’s a definite parallel to what Haliburton has been doing in Iraq and Wood tries to explore it from all possible angles.

This is a comic made for people who may not be too keen on the superhero genre. It really displays that comics aren’t locked to that genre but are a form of expression that can be adapted to tell any number of stories. DMZ will appeal to you most if you have a high interest in current events and politics. One of the best reads of the year. Right now there are three collections available:

DMZ Vol.1: On The Ground
DMZ Vol.2: Body of a Journalist
DMZ Vol.3: Public Works

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~ by Seth on September 14, 2007.

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