Comic Fodder

Today I Entered The "DMZ"

DMZI recently picked up the first trade paperback collection of issues 1-6 of Brian Wood's DMZ. This morning I brought it with me in the car on my way into the office thinking I'd get to read some while on my lunch break. I didn't know this at the time but I wouldn't have to wait until lunch to read DMZ I got to read it much sooner than I thought.

At 7:30am today I was driving along to work, minding my business, listening to Howard Stern when all of the sudden I hear the unmistakable sound of tires screeching. The car in front of me suddenly skids to a stop, I slam on my brakes and the next thing I know I'm skidding across the wet asphalt and into the back of the black Dodge pickup truck in front of me. There is a THUD and then the sickening sound of metal crushing metal. Smoke billows from the now accordion shaped hood of my car and the smell of burnt tire-rubber fills my nostrils as I get out of the car. The first thing I did, after making sure no one was hurt, is call a tow truck.

That was 7:30am this morning. The tow truck arrived at 10:35am. From 7:50, when the cops finally left, until 10:35 when my car was FINALLY towed away I sat on the side of the highway and read the first six issues of DMZ.

I first discovered Brian Wood when I read his critically acclaimed series, DEMO which I loved. It was an original idea told in a unique way with beautiful art that served the story perfectly. DMZ, is also a completely original idea about a United States thrown into disarray after anti-establishment militias strike out against the USA government sparking a second Civil War that tears the country in half and comes to a standstill in Manhattan. Matty Roth, an aspiring photojournalist, is stranded in the heart of Manhattan after his news crew is attacked by the Free State Army (the militias all working together under a common goal and name). Matty decides that rather than search for rescue or escape from the DMZ (which stands for demilitarized zone) he’ll stay and tell the stories of the men, woman and children living inside the nightmare.

The concept behind this book is incredibly well thought out and executed. It’s clear that Mr. Wood has put a lot of thought and effort into building the backstory of the second Civil War and has meticulously mapped out what is happening in every part of the island of Manhattan in this post-war ravaged city. I think that this book holds a lot of potential for the future and I’m curious to see where he’s going with this idea but I have to recommend you wait for the trade with this one.

As I read each of the six issues in the trade I began to get a sense of inertia, that is, the book seems to be treading water. If I had read any of those six issues individually I would have been disappointed. Not a whole lot happens in this first trade titled, “On The Ground”. We meet Matty and watch him get stranded in the DMZ. He meets a girl named Zee who lives on the lower East side of the city and seems to be uninvolved in either side of the ongoing war. She’s a resident of NYC and is just trying to survive in the war zone that was formerly her neighborhood. Matty spends most of these first six issues wandering around the city meeting people and getting acquainted (and by extension the audience) with the players and rules of this new environment. There is not much else that happens, each issue is pretty much self-contained and no major ongoing threads are developed inside this first trade. The most exciting development in the first arc is at the end of the sixth issue when Matty finally comes face-to-face with the soldiers of the Free State Army and they tell him to come by and hear their side of things anytime.

Riccardo Burchielli handles the art chores on the book and does an excellent job of bringing the horror of war to the familiar landscape of New York City. His background and character design is cool and has a punk rock feel to it but much like the story I feel like something is missing. He's like Eduardo Risso, artist of 100 Bullets, without the sense of grand design. Where Risso plans each page as a piece of art work it seems Burchielli works panel by panel, doing whatever is necessary to convey the point of the scene without much emphasis on the angle or focus of the shots.

As I said before I won’t get the single issues and I suggest you wait for the trade as well. This is a book that has a ton of potential once you get past the set-up. I’d like to see Matty get some kind of direction or purpose in the DMZ and maybe even the promise of some character development. A lot of these self-contained stories lack the emotional gravitas that Wood's self contained DEMO stories had. Right now it’s just a lot of really cool ideas, well drawn and competently written, that don’t add up to much in the way of overall story hopefully that will change as the series progresses.

That’s all for now, my girlfriend just got home on a lunch break and I’m going to get me some sympathy sex for crashing up the car.

*EDIT -- Thanks for the correction Uncle Lou.

WOW! Now with pictures!


-- Posted by: shawn at July 19, 2006 7:38 PM