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3.9 out of 5 stars
DMZ Vol. 1: On the Ground
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on June 18, 2006
Format: Paperback
Imagine if the United States were to enter into a second civil war in the present time. With all the technology available today, such as large bombs, sniper rifles, and biological/chemical devices, what would happen to our country? Why would it happen? In this first volume of Brian Wood's new Vertigo series, DMZ, we only get a taste of what would happen, and we're still in the dark as to why.

Photojournalist intern Matty Roth received his dream assignment when he was picked to accompany a veteran reporter into Manhattan. What is so special about Manhattan? Five years after the start of the war between the United States and the Free States (described only as "New Jersey and inwards"), Manhattan has become a demilitarized zone (DMZ), or a no-man's land. Very few people remain on the island. Some of them are sentries from either army while most of them are poor and/or stubborn people who cannot or will not leave their homes. The island is in ruins; most of the skyscrapers have been destroyed, Central Park is a barren wasteland, and the chances of being picked off by a sniper while walking on the streets are almost 100%. Despite all that, the chance to go there and report on what's happening is the dream of any reporter.

Of course, things don't go as planned, and an explosion takes out the chopper that brought Matty to the island as well as the entire crew he was with. Matty is forced to find a way to survive on his own without the ability to be picked up. His cell phone and laptop allow him to communicate with his producer, and he decides that he might as well carry on his assignment. The things that Matty encounters while in the DMZ are equal parts horrifying, saddening, and at times, enlightening. As time goes on, Matty starts to think that maybe the things he had been hearing on the news back in the United States, and the nasty things said about the Free States, may not have been completely truthful...

These first five issues are amazing. They expertly set up a series that surely will get better as time goes on. While we don't get a lot of info about why the war started, we are given hints that some astonishing answers are to come. The gritty artwork is a perfect compliment to the dark tone of the series, which is superbly written by Wood. This is a great new series to jump into, especially since it is so relatively new. As usual, the Vertigo line has given us a great series that is provocative and intelligent. This is a must-read for comic fans and non-fans alike.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on June 11, 2006
Format: Paperback
You may or may not know who Brian Wood is (yet), but if you are in any way interested in quality comic/graphic novel work, then it's a name you should remember. I have been reading his "Supermarket" series which I have found to be so completely fresh that I felt like I owed it to myself to check out DMZ.

"On The Ground" quickly establishes the scenario, environment, and characters in a terse manner in order to get the story rolling. The quickness of this establishment is aided by the use of a backdrop that is familiar to us all (the events of 9/11), the glazing over of explicit details of exactly how the United States came to be in the current state that Wood has put it in (which will allow for future exposition on the subject), and is a great way to put the reader in the passenger seat and hit the gas. This initial volume is fantastic in setting us up just enough to make the ride fun, and trickling details to us to keep our interest.

"On The Ground" introduces DMZ's main character, young Matty Roth, who is sent to the now-dangerous island of Manhattan as a journalism intern for an investigative news team. He quickly finds himself alone (with equipment) and left to his own survival instincts. Facing a strange world of constantly impending peril, Matt decides that making the best of his situation includes pushing forward with his journalistic intentions. Given this setup, Mr. Wood has created a world with nearly endless possibilites, and the "what-if coolness" of it is very reminiscent of Brian K. Vaughn's "Y: The last Man". I truly cannot wait to see what happens next.

Kudos must also be given to the visual creators of this series. The co-artists are Riccardo Burchielli and Brian Wood himself, and it's not 100% apparent as to how the rendering duties were divided, but what is apparent is that the art looks wonderful. The attention to detail in the post-apocalyptic urban scenes, as well as the various military units, really help to establish the mood and realism of the series. I found myself analyzing many panels, if only to read all of the crazy graffiti or check out the great-looking war machines.

This book was colored by Jeremy Cox who also deserves immense credit for aiding in the mood establishment. This book looks the way that I wish MANY other books with such serious subject-matter looked. It is dark, brooding, & mysterious. His choice of colors are more of a reflection of the real world, moreso than many other books in this medium often portray. Fantastic job on the colors, and I hope that Messieurs Wood & Burchielli know what a gem they have on their hands with Cox, as the book would not have had nearly the impact that it did in the hands of a lesser (or even different) colorist.

Overall, if you enjoy the graphic novel or comic medium, and are looking for a fresh story that isn't afraid to get ugly (some of the subject matter is very intense, which is again a testament to the attempt to make this thing as hypothetically realistc as possible), then pick up this book. I truly believe that it will at the very least find its way into the hallowed halls of Vertigo's elite books.

And that is saying quite a bit.
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13 of 17 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon November 16, 2008
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
I think I was supposed to like this more than I did. After all, what's not to like? The premise is right up my alley. America at war with itself. New York has become an island in the midst of the war. The survivors have hacked out bits and pieces of a society - though anarchy all too often still reigns supreme. A young journalist is in the middle of it all, documenting the war in the midst of New York City and what the war is doing to the civilians there.

Sounds like a great concept. Exactly the sort of thing I'd like to read. So why did the first volume leave me wondering if I wanted to keep reading?

For all the praise Wood gets for this supposed love letter to New York City, I rarely got the sense of place I should have felt. One should be immersed in the city, yet that sense of being there was inconsistent.

Maybe it's the art. Riccardo Burchielli's style does not appeal to me, but that's something I can live with (even if all the characters are as ugly as sin). What I can't live with is rough storytelling. Burchielli draws a great cityscape, but his panel-to-panel work just isn't as clear and direct as it should be.

It doesn't help that the coloring is so muddy. Everything is washed out in a murky reddish hue, so few things really pop from the page. I understand the color choices, but this book really could have used more contrast in that regard. Maybe this is why the issue set in Central Park during the winter looked best.

There SHOULD be a lot to like here. Great premise, great world to explore, and in theory great things ahead. It falls just short of the mark, however. I'm hoping this improves, because there is a lot of potential in the premise.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on July 7, 2011
Format: Paperback
This entire series of comic books (or graphic novels, as I've been told they are now called) is absolutely incredible. The first two are my favorites.

The world created by Brian Wood is realistic, deep, gritty, and palpable as you explore. Yes, I use the word 'explore.' It is a more accurate word to use for this series than 'read.' Wood places you in the middle of a war zone. A very unique and provoking war zone at that. You will feel like you've got some DMZ dust on you after you close this book. Brian Wood really hits home, and not just because its about a civil war in New York city, but because it addresses a lot of the issues the U.S. (and the world) has been facing for the past five years or so. The illustrations aren't "pretty," but they aren't meant to be. They are fluid, striking, and detailed enough to draw you straight into the middle of the story.

I've read them over and over and over again. I can't stop! I absolutely love these books. If its not your thing, then its just not your thing. But I would recommend trying at least the first two novels. for 20 bucks you can probably get both of them, plus shipping. Its well worth it. I'd love, LOVE to see this series of comic books turned into a series of movies. Given, you'd have to do a good job, but it would sell every seat in every theater of the country once word got around.

I don't consider myself an "avid reader." And I certainly don't keep up with the comic book scene. But I have never experienced writing or illustrated books that are anything like the DMZ series.

My favorite book by a long shot.

Well done Brian Wood!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on June 20, 2011
Format: Paperback
Few works feel as authentic and relevant to current-day crises as Brian Wood and Riccardo Burchielli's DMZ. Borne quite clearly from the sensibilities of post-9/11, it takes all of the horrors and damage of warfare waged abroad and brings it home in a fully realized, potent reminder of life during wartime, a life the vast majority of American citizens have been politely oblivious to aside from the brief, sanitized images they see on the nightly news.

Wood and Burchielli do not pull any punches. They recognize the interplay between the military and the media, and the power of exclusive stories and the compromises made to score big, flashy headlines. They recognize the scary, heartbreaking effects of war, from the corpse-strewn streets left in the aftermath of a car bombing or an air strike to the disfigured, bloodied children caught in the crossfire.

The DMZ of this book isn't Afghanistan or Iraq. It's not the riotous streets of Egypt or Libya. It's New York City, on the Manhattan Island. On the Brooklyn side of it sits the continental United States; on the other side, New Jersey and inland, is the Free States of America. Here are the frontlines of America's second civil war.

Matty Roth, a photojournalist intern, is assigned to help a Pulitzer-winning documentarian's tour of war-torn NYC. Immediately after their helicopter lands, they come under assault from guerrilla forces. Roth is the only one who survives, leaving him trapped and alone in the city. All he has is a press pass, a laptop, and a camera. What he sees and learns about life in the city compels him to work, and so he files stories, films interviews, takes photographs. It's a job that makes him a friend to some, an enemy to others, and what he finds is a truth that has been squelched and ignored.

Rooftops painted with the simple phrase "HELP." The Empire State Building half-ruined, surrounded by towers of smoke and fire. In the opening pages of DMZ, this is the first image of a New York decimated by five years of warfare, an image that seems all too real, all too iconoclastic.

Wood's script and Burchielli's pencils work symbiotically, creating a fictional world that teems with life, one that is instantly, frighteningly recognizable, yet safely foreign. From the mangled bodies to a snow-covered Central Park that has long since been razed for firewood, you're there, right alongside Roth and his documentarian lens. From the very first pages, it is impossible to not be fully sucked into the world that's being created here. While the hows and whys of this revolution are, in this opening volume, ignored, it makes little difference to the overall emotional impact of the story and its engaging forthrightness.

The political commentary is obvious. The spoon-fed media messages that serve as more propaganda than truth, meant to demonize an enemy we don't even know, let alone understand. Wood could have safely told this story with Iraq as its setting, but instead he takes the bold step of placing it directly inside our comfort zone, inside a well-known American city. He forces readers to question the issues of insurgency and occupation, asking us to place ourselves directly on the frontlines. The insurgents of DMZ were artists, doctors, chefs. They still hold concerts and art shows, they help care for the wounded, they tend to rooftop gardens and host dinners high above the streets because it's safer than being on street-level where you can be attacked by snipers, crazy people, or car bombs.

DMZ is horrifying, almost exhausting, in its authenticity. It's an engaging, addictive alt-history that pulls readers in and shoves their faces in the muck, forcing them to examine the life and destruction around them as they're taken on a whirlwind, guided tour of a New York made unrecognizable but still wholly familiar.

It's unclear who the villains are. Each side has a story; each side has a reason. While readers of this first volume may not know exactly what those stories and reasons are, they'll be sure to pick up the following installments to find out.

-- Michael Hicks
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format: Paperback
I picked this up on a whim while visiting my local library and DMZ: On The Ground grabbed me by the jugular and wouldn't let go within two pages.

Even though the premise of DMZ has been done before, author Brian Wood delivered his take on a second American civil war with such adrenaline and ferocity that it is unlike any of its thematic predecessors.

The idea is that because our armies our stretched so thinly overseas, radical militias within the heartland separate from the USA and spread all the way to New Jersey. Manhattan becomes the DMZ while the rest of New York is still the United State's. A young intern named Matt (Matty) Roth flies in with a journalism crew and then becomes stranded after the entire crew is wiped out. Instead of fleeing during the next available extraction, he decides to become embedded within the war-torn DMZ and report what's truly happening.

I read a lot of graphic novels, and it's been a long time since one completely captivated me within instants of starting it. Brian Wood executes a tight, fast-paced, brutal storyline with realistic dialogue. Wood also impressed me with the sheer logic of what things would really be like if this actually ever occurred.

Artist Riccardo Burchielli draws some of the most detailed, tense renderings I've ever seen. While not meant to be photo-realistic, he amazed me by faithfully depicting a city in shambles. His half-destroyed buildings, burnt cars, litter, and bomb craters sucked me right into the story and made me feel like I was living it, not reading it. This is one of the highest compliments I can pay an artist.

Along with Fables and Ex Machina, DMZ has moved to my "must-read" list and I urge you to read it as well.

~Scott William Foley, author of Souls Triumphant
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on December 20, 2007
Format: Paperback
Before I read DMZ, I read a few other works of Brian Wood's. My impression of the author was that he was just like every other anarchist-rebel-punk from the nineties. Channel Zero told a story much like those we've already heard before (1984 (Signet Classics),Anthem), so I thought I had a pretty good idea what this story would be about. I was wrong.

DMZ is the Civil War a la the Gulf War, and the War on Terror. The location is absolutely perfect, and pretty much makes the story. It takes place in New York, which is a microcosm of the world, pretty much. There are the artists, the politicians, the fighters, the activists, the Christians, the Muslims... It makes sense why someone would choose this location for the next American civil war.

The story follows Mattie Roth, a rookie journalist, who is on a job with the first news team to cover the "DMZ". He soon finds out everything the rest of the country had been told was false. Mattie makes enemies, and friends along the way, and uses his journalist immortality to the fullest, getting in as deep as he can to find out the truth.

Overall, this is really a great comic. It's like reading a really good novel. My advice is to buy the first two volumes together, because as soon as you read the last bubble of text, you'll be craving more.
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on July 14, 2009
Format: Paperback
One of my favorite reads, DMZ has enthralled me with its brilliant mixture of characterization and drama, all in a fictional warzone which, in retrospect, isn't as unlikely as I initially thought it to be. Well, if 9/11 happened in New York, I guess anything goes. So, to pull it off like Brian did in the first five issues of DMZ, it's amazing and that's because of characters as always.

It's all about the characters in DMZ. Brian understands that even with the most brilliant of ideas and scenarios you need the characters to stand out, to take center stage so to speak. Here in this first few issues, we're immediately introduced to the protaganist, Matty Roth and then, BAM, we're right smack in the warzone. The monent Matty steps foot on Manhattan, bullets start flying. DMZ's a very confrontational comic and Brian wastes no time getting into it.There are many scenes where the narrative focuses on Matty's thoughts and his interactions with the inhabitants of Manhattan. You will find yourself drawn into his life very quickly. The characters are what makes the setting so real and engaging in my opinion

As far as cliches go, he meets a female counterpart, Zee, a nurse who opted to stay in Manhattan. Time can only tell how that relationship develops. He also encounters the Ghosts, a rogue special forces unit, and a whole slew of characters, all of which make up the fabric of the DMZ. ON THE GROUND builds up the world of DMZ very vividly, which is the whole point.

Simply put, if you're looking for a good, fast moving comic with good action and at the same time looking for good characterization and depth in the plot, you might want to take a look at this comic. DMZ's nay perfect for satisfying your TV series jones, and while you're at it, get the rest of the trades and keep reading. DMZ's going to stay on my pull list for as long as it takes.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on December 14, 2007
Format: Paperback
This is the first installment of a series that is at least four volumes long, so if you decide to get this book, rest assured, there IS more! That being said, I thought from page 1 of the first volume, to page 119 in the 3rd volume, this story is amazing! At first I had my doubts because you're quite litteraly dropped into the middle of a warzone, with no explanation of how this war started, or why it continues. But as I read it, I forgot that I didn't know those things - that I didn't have answers to the questions it brought to mind, if for no other reason, than that most of the characters that you read about, that Matty (the main character) meets don't know either, or at least seem to care. Its a fact of life, living in the city, surrounded by a war that you didn't start, that you didn't ask for, that you probably won't finish, but hope to live to see the end of.
I think that if you pick this book up, and you should, and you just let the story suck you in, suspend your reality for just a little bit, you will find that the important questions are answered, and the rest doesn't matter. Take the book for what it is...a great story set in a fictional New York, in a fictional war, and I promise, you'll enjoy it, and it's sequels.
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on August 16, 2008
Format: Paperback
DMZ is brash, violent and profane -- the reflection of the raw emotions of a once-great nation sunk into the depths of civil war. Into Manhattan -- the no man's land between two warring factions -- comes Matt Roth, twenty-something photo intern for the Liberty news organization. Finding himself alone in the wild and unpredictable DMZ, he survives by wit and instinct, trading on his press credentials for access and protection. The world that Wood and Burchielli create is dangerous, repellent and seductive. One must be a survivor among survivors or sink into a troglodytic swamp. In this volume Roth meets a freelance medic making the rounds after bomb blasts, a lone Marine AWOL from his unit and a gang of ecologists using violence to preserve what little remains of New York's flora and fauna. The action is fast, the dialog sparse (with loads of F bombs) and grittily realistic. The characters are colorful and varied, and the plot requires close reading and rereading to capture fully. A great addition to the library of anyone who loves the graphic novel form.
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