Wednesday, 20 June 2012


In the future, Manhattan isn’t a maximum security Federal penitentiary, nor is it ruled by costumed street gangs.  Instead, The Big Apple has become a Demilitarized Zone, the neutral no-man’s land in a second American civil war.  That’s the provocative premise of DMZ, Brian Wood’s long-running Vertigo comic-book series.  A rookie reporter named Matty Roth is our hapless tour-guide.  When stranded in this hellacious concrete jungle he has no choice but to navigate a warren of shifting alliances and ulterior motives.  Matty isn’t an iconoclastic gonzo-journalist like Transmetropolitan's Spider Jerusalem.  He’s a confused kid who has bit of more than he can chew, and is forced to man-up or be put down.  Elevated by Riccardo Burchielli's distinctive art-style,  the story investigates Matty's struggles as an embedded journalist in a terrifying what-if scenario, but it also chronicles the war for the soul of an entire city.

To put it in no uncertain terms, DMZ is a masterwork of speculative fiction.  But it’s also Wood’s gut-reaction to the events of 9/11 and the fallout of the intervening decade.  While Matty trudges through scorched boroughs and desolate hoods, interviewing survivors and documenting the lives lost, Wood is free to explore hot-button topics like the War in Iraq, Homeland Security, Blackwater, Halliburton, Hurricane Katrina, and Red-State/Blue-State partisanship.  But with an emphasis on character instead of situation, DMZ becomes a reflection of modern America and the cacophony of voices that are clashing when they should be melting.

Readers who prefer trade-paperbacks will welcome the recent release of The Five Nations of New York, which collects the final pages in DMZ's epic 72 issue run. Action-packed and politically-charged, DMZ  resembles the best episodes of Battlestar Galactica.  It raises more questions than it answers, which is what any storyteller worth a damn should strive for.  More than just a love-letter to NYC, more than just another comic-book, DMZ is a riveting cautionary tale that kicks ass and takes names, and broke my heart along the way.

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