- Paperback: 128 pages
- Publisher: Vertigo (June 7, 2006)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1401210627
- ISBN-13: 978-1401210625
- Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 0.3 x 10.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 7 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 48 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #350,789 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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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
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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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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 necessarily a problem, especially if it's a thoughtful and well-crafted story, and if it isn't filled with absurd straw people as stand-ins for the opposing view to the author's. After all, one look at just about any comic book writer's Twitter feed and you'll discover that Mr. Wood isn't alone. If you eliminate all far left comic book authors, you're left with almost no comics to read. 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, and that's all you can ever be. 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. If you think Antifa's pre-emptive violence against anyone who disagrees with them is justified, because anyone who disagrees with the extreme left really must be a Nazi, then you might find the tone in this book right up your alley. For anyone to the right of Trotsky, it might start to get on your nerves.
Of course, like all works of art, this series deserves to be judged based on the time it was written. DMZ was written during a time when it was just becoming cool and even mainstream to call the sitting President a traitor, a genocidal maniac, and a war criminal. (Sound familiar in 2018? Forget that pretty much every major country in the world agreed with the Iraq war based on the same faulty intelligence, and even though most of the opposition party here in the US voted in favor of it). 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 more than a decade after these first issues were written - then DMZ begins to feel a bit dated and extremely biased. Especially now that left wing hysteria in the age of Trump has become so shrill and comical that it makes protest pieces like this seem quaint and even restrained in comparison.
But still, it's pretty bad at times. The worst of it, to me, was the nearly constant moral equivalency argument Wood 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 bombers? Well, they're just poor, misunderstood, good people at heart, doing all they can in the face of injustice. They're just like you! Hell, you'd probably do the same thing if you were them, 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's propaganda, plain and simple. And it gets really, really old after a while.
So why do I give it four stars, despite my annoyance with the super duper subtle politics? Well, 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, as I said at the top, this series is absolutely worth your time. Your tolerance for left wing propaganda will determine how much you can enjoy the series. Just be prepared for a 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, BECAUSE IT WAS SO SUBTLE, AND BECAUSE NO ONE IN POPULAR CULTURE EVER DOES ANYTHING LIKE THAT." *wink, nudge*
If you can stomach that, though, definitely give DMZ a shot. =)