DMZ Public Works: New collection of moving, thrilling graphic novel

Public Works is the third collection of DMZ comics, and it's stupendous. DMZ is Brian Wood's remarkable war comics about a civil war in America in which both sides have turned New York into a heavily shelled no-man's-land where the fighting never stops, and the story is told from the point of view of Matty Roth, an intern journalist who is stranded in Manhattan and becomes the world's most celebrated reporter of the war.

In Public Works, Matty -- fast becoming one of the best characters in comics -- goes undercover on a work-crew operated by a thinly veiled version of Halliburton, a profiteering, ruthless government contractor whose savage mercenaries fight with the UN for jurisdiction over New York.

Wood is a tremendous writer, with a great sense of plot and a soft, smart touch at portraying the two sides that are most opposed in any war: the combatants versus the noncombatants.

DMZ is unrelentingly angry and mean, smart and shocking. Riccardo Burchielli's artwork is the perfect complement, using simple layouts and a great eye for facial expressions as well as backgrounds to keep the pace up. This is one hell of a collection.

I was privileged to write the introduction for this one, and I'm still glowing at the honor. This is special stuff, like Watchmen or Transmetropolitan, comics that have changed the way I look at the genre. Here's an excerpt from the intro:

DMZ is a special kind of angry comic, the kind of angry war comic that tells the story of the other side in the war. Non-combatants aren't just cannon fodder or collateral damage. We've got every bit as much agency, as much control over our destinies, as the guys with the guns and the satellite photos. But you wouldn't know it from how we're depicted in the press -- instead, we're the bodies blown apart on street-corners, the shoeless sheep having our hemorrhoid cream confiscated at the airport.

DMZ is an inspiration to we who refuse to be dismembered and unshod. It's a wake-up call to stop letting greedy profiteers sell fresh wars to cement their authority and profitability.

If I had my way, this comic would be required reading in every civics class in America.

Link, Link to info on launch party, Sept 8, Brooklyn

See also: DMZ: graphic novel, a worthy successor to Transmetropolitan


  1. *sigh*

    I hate it when people who’s opinions register to me reccomend things. It always costs me money. I just ordered vol 1 and 2 of DMZ.

    Stop making me spend money boingboing!

    (In other comics yotz, I am really, really enjoying boom studio’s Fall of Cthulhu, fun reading for the Lovecraft fans out there)

  2. I picked up a copy of the first DMZ book at my local comics shop on Cory’s recommendation. It was, in my opinion, only so-so. I didn’t care about the main character at all, the artwork was just comic book typical (nothing unique or intriguing). The story was amateurish and, well, boring. I gave the book to my friend, an avid comic book reader, and he felt the same way. Well, that’s my opinion, take it or leave it. If you’re interested in the series, go to your local shop and check it out. If you think it’s as bleh as I do, pick up something else and support local business! Cheers!

  3. I agree that dmz isn’t that great, but perhaps it improves I only read the first issue. I guess my problem with it is that science fiction is effective when its telling stories you couldn’t ordinarily tell. It just seems to be that you could write a completely realistic story about what’s happening in Iraq and in all probability Iran and you would get a better story about factions and civil war. It doesn’t touch Watchmen. It’s not even as entaining as Promethea or Tom Strong.

    I really think the feel good hit of the summer is Black Summer by Warren Ellis…just my opinion. Take it or leave it.

    Philip Shropshire

  4. DMZ is really one of my favorite comics currently coming out. It’s anti-war, and it’s eye-opening, showing Americans who only see war in movies or in TV reports about stuff happening on the other side of the world what it would be like to have that sort of thing happening in our back yard, to people that we know, in familiar locations. It’s harrowing, an angry story that inspires us to get up off our asses and stop people from killing other people. A great read, and I can’t recommend it enough.

    By the way, other commenters mentioned that they didn’t like the first volume, and while I did like it, it got better after that point. The second, third, and fourth volumes (the fourth hasn’t come out yet, but the issues contained within have) are amazingly gripping, and I can’t get enough of them.

    Matt Brady
    Warren Peace Sings the Blues

  5. I am also somewhat leary of the main character, but to me, he isn’t the driving force behind my interest in DMZ. The world Wood and Burchielli have created is absolutely stunning – I’ve lived in New York my whole life, and it is something of a lateral mindfuck to see the bombed-out shell of Manhattan compartmentalized into warring tribal territories, not to mention my home of Brooklyn turned into the last stand of the United States!

    Even more than this alone, it is Wood’s ability to create depth and color in the supporting characters, who tend to be the downtrodden, counterculture sort, that keeps it moving. Somtetimes, I feel that his characters can stretch into caricatures, but even then, they are fairly effective for progressing the narrative, which I think generally works.

    For more quality Wood, I highly reccomend Demo, an indie monthly done with Becky Cloonan that focuses on people with superpowers who do not fit the “underwear-pervert” mold, and are more likely to be young, immature, uncomfortable with their powers, and frequently shunned for them. Smashing art and solid, gritty stories.

    Rocketship is also a very neat little shop keeping it real on the rapidly hippifying Smith Street.

  6. Really tired of the moonbat cliche of Halliburton as a, “a profiteering, ruthless government contractor”. It’s clear Cory doesn’t have a clue what Halliburton does (it’s history dates back the early 1900s – long before the Bush admin). Is it possible to write a review without being so blindly partisan and conspiratorial?

  7. Another comic (even though from yesteryear) that’s worth a look is Pat Mills’ “Third World War”. Full of anti-corporate, anti-war sentiment. The story line first appeared in Crisis in the UK. If you dig around you can find the 6 graphic novel books of the series.

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