Thursday, June 10, 2010

Recommendation: DMZ

DMZ is a political graphic novel from Brian Wood, that begins with the premise of a second American Civil War a few years in the future. Sparked by too many forces spread too thinly in overseas wars, an insurgency develops in the Midwest that manages to gain a foothold across the country, leading to the declaration of the Free States. With America engaged in this new civil war, Manhattan becomes the no man’s land between both opposing forces. It is declared a Demilitarized Zone after being evacuated and suffering Baghdad-style bombing campaigns. Amid this setting, novice cameraman Matty Roth is stranded inside Manhattan and becomes the eyes and ears of Liberty News, reporting on the situation in the DMZ.

For anyone enjoying a well-written, thoughtful political thriller, DMZ delivers with a range of storylines—from individual episodes focusing on the richly devleoped characters (a doctor who elected to stay after the evacuation, former gangleaders who now run parts of Manhattan, and the individual soldiers stationed there) to larger political forces of the USA and Free States manipulating and vying for power in New York. All these elements are seen through the eyes of Matty Roth, who has to deal with his own loyalties, ambitions, and misgivings about what he is reporting, and ultimately the media celebrity he becomes both inside and outside the DMZ.

The series has shown considerable foresight, with one storyline dealing with a private security agency (Trustwell) that is involved in a massacre, more than a year before the Blackwater scandal in Iraq. Now, with the Tea Party movement and partisanship in the United States, it’s not so hard to imagine militia movements attempting to seize control somewhere in the Midwest.

One of the benefits of the Vertigo line of DC comics is that the writers exercise a great deal of control over their work, with an end date in sight—that means the story is ultimately self-contained and will wrap up without a sudden cancellation.

DMZ is published by DC Comics' Vertigo line. The art has a gritty style, but well done, and great care has been taken to properly render a believable bombed out New York City.

DMZ is entering its final stretch. It has passed 50 issues and these have been collected in eight trade paperbacks. Current storylines are dealing with the first free elections inside the DMZ, and Matty’s loyalties as an objective observer being called into question. I'm sure the ultimate resolution to the overall saga will not disappoint.

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