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DMZ Vol. 1: On the Ground Paperback – June 7, 2006
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A near-future America is torn by war between the Free Armies, who control New Jersey and the inland, and the United States, ensconced in New York City's boroughs. In the war-torn DMZ of Manhattan, Matty Roth, hired as a phototech intern to a famous battlefield journalist, is stranded when the rest of his crew is killed. Overcoming initial panic, he decides to remain as the sole embedded journalist in the devastated, largely depopulated city. It's a career-making assignment--if it doesn't get him killed. Befriended by former med student Zee, who runs a clinic, Matty discovers a society struggling to survive amid skirmishes and snipers (appropriate soundtrack music: Talking Heads' "Life during Wartime"). Of the DMZ issues collected here, the first three establish its premise. In the succeeding two, Matty discovers the "Ghosts of Central Park"--paramilitaries who defend the now-deforested preserve and its zoo animals--and chases a robber who steals his press badge. Wood's writing does justice to the intriguing concept, and Burchielli's jagged artwork effectively conveys the characters' desperation. Gordon Flagg
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About the Author
Brian Wood released his first series, Channel Zero, in 1997 to critical acclaim, and has produced comics and graphic novels at a brisk pace ever since, becoming one of the most important creators of the last decade. Other works include Couriers, Demo, Local and Supermarket. He has earned multiple Eisner Award nominations, and his work has been published in close to a dozen foreign markets.
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Top Customer Reviews
It's very obvious that the author, Brian Wood, is very far to the left when it comes to political ideology. That in itself isn't a problem at all, of course, even in a book like this, especially if it's a thoughtful and well-crafted story, and if it isn't filled with stupid straw people as stand-ins for the opposing view to the author's. But for my taste, this series pretty quickly devolved into elitist left wing propaganda. It's clear that Mr. Wood has the opinion that too many New Yorkers seem to have; namely that if you're from the middle of the country, you're pretty much an uneducated racist redneck. Likewise, anti-corporate, anti-capitalist, and a lot of pretty blatant anti-American sentiment just starts to permeate through the entire series, especially as it goes into the final stretch. If you think the Democratic Party is way too conservative, you probably won't even notice any of this. And of course it has to be judged based on the time it was written, when it was cool and even mainstream to call the sitting President a traitor, a genocidal maniac, and a war criminal (even though, without the benefit of hindsight, pretty much every major country in the world agreed on the same faulty intelligence, and even though most of the opposition party here in the US voted in favor of that disastrous war). So, to be fair, you do have to look at DMZ's tone in context of the time. But if you're just looking for a good, thoughtful story, with great characters, which involves heavy themes about why war should always be the very last option because of the horrific human consequences, and what military occupation does to the human condition - and if you're now almost a decade after these first issues were written - then DMZ begins to feel a bit dated and extremely biased.
The worst of this, to me, was the nearly constant moral equivalency argument he seems absolutely determined make through the entire series. In fact, I almost got the sense that making that point was his entire purpose for writing the series at all. Suicide bombings? Well, they're just poor, misunderstood, and just like you, and you'd probably do the same thing if you were there, and everyone knows they're not responsible anyway, it's all really the fault of those evil right wingers and the greedy corporations they worship, blah blah blah. It gets really, really old after a while.
So why do I give it four stars, despite my annoyance with the really super duper subtle politics? Well, it's because it's otherwise fantastic. Technically, and artistically, it's easily one of the finest pieces of graphic art storytelling I've read in a long time. I absolutely love the gut wrenching artwork, and Brian Wood is an amazing storyteller (at least when he's not preaching his politics; see Northlanders, one of the best series out there). Every single panel, even those without words, convey a powerful emotion, or move the story forward at a brisk clip. It's one of the best examples of how powerful the use of silence and facial expressions can be in Comics, and I wish more writer/artist teams would make use of those tools as skillfully as they're used in DMZ.
So, all in all, as I said at the top, this series is absolutely worth your time. Even if (like me) you get seriously annoyed at the incessant, neverending barrage of "SEE? I'M MAKING A POINT ABOUT HOW EVIL CONSERVATIVES ARE RIGHT HERE. THAT'S WHAT I WAS TRYING TO SAY WHEN I SKILLFULLY AND ARTFULLY MADE EVERY CHARACTER WHO'S SUPPOSED TO BE CONSERVATIVE INTO A BLOODTHIRSTY RACIST MANIAC. YOU PROBABLY DIDN'T NOTICE THAT THOUGH."
IF YOU... *ahem* If you can stomach that, though, definitely give DMZ a shot. =)
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.