DMZ Friendly Fire: reinventing war comics, making them better and more important

I've just finished DMZ: Friendly Fire, the fourth collection for Brian Wood's incredible, next-gen war comic that is busily redefining the genre as something more relevant and important than it ever was before. In the DMZ storyline, America is plunged into civil war, a war between the redneck Free States movement and the authoritarian, Iraq-shocked US military. The two armies meet in New York, turning Manhattan into a giant, rent-asunder demilitarized zone, where only one reporter, the unlikely young Matty Roth, tells the real story of what goes on in the latest, endless war.

The DMZ stories manage to combine the tough, thrilling character of golden age war comics with sharp and complex analysis of the big questions underpinning the modern age of politicized, commercialized warfare.

In Friendly Fire, Matty is charged with covering the military tribunal for the squad who conducted the Day 204 Massacre in which nearly 200 peaceful protesters were gunned down by a hair-trigger force who thought they saw a gun (or did see a gun, or planted a gun). Wood's tight, super-focused storytelling never tells us what exactly happened on Day 204, and manages to make heroes out of the worst villains and villains out of the biggest heroes.

DMZ keeps getting better and better. Between this and books like The Walking Dead, Fables and Y: The Last Man, it feels like we're living in a renaissance of amazing comic book storytelling. Link

See also:
DMZ: graphic novel, a worthy successor to Transmetropolitan
DMZ Public Works: New collection of moving, thrilling graphic novel
Cory and DMZ's Brian Wood interviewed on iFanBoy
DMZ comic t-shirt


  1. I’m struggling to keep going with The Walking Dead; I find it a little too aimless for my tastes.

    I would add to your list, however, Ex Machina; it’s by the writer of Y: The Last Man and is an exploration of modern politics, with a sci-fi twist. Very nicely done.

  2. Am I the only one who didn’t care for Y: The Last Man?

    Seems the plot went nowhere, just adding a bunch of twists for no reason.

    (Oh, now they’re running from cannibals? Lesbian sex between characters? A man turns out to be a robot? An ex Canadian pop star is a Tokyo crime boss? etc.)

    Also, are we supposed to believe that after THREE YEARS of walking around together, they would still be calling her “Agent 355?”

    I loved this series in the beginning but gave up after book #6…

    Apart from that, everyone here should read “100%” by Paul Pope.

  3. You can download the first issues of DMZ, Y and many other Vertigo for free.

    Of course they hide the link on their site(why, we may never know, but the early 1990’s website might explain it) but if you look hard enough, they are there.

  4. I’ve had great fun with Y: The Last Man (I read 3 volumes this weekend), and The Walking Dead.

    I’d also submit that Wormwood is quite good as well, and I seem to recall hearing about it here.

  5. I don’t know if ‘reniassance’ counts when the big players are still bogged down in badly-written, nigh incoherant crap, but there’s hardly a time when there aren’t at least a few good books swimming around. Especially now that manga’s in the game, opening up the field.

    Ex Machina, The Order (perhaps the only decent thing to come out of Civil War — so of course it gets cancelled), and Terry Moore has a new book out, Echo.

  6. I am definitely in the camp of believing we’re in a new golden era. It’s a simple question: Are there more GREAT comics now than there have been in ages? I think so. So many great series building up collections. The indie one-shot graphic novels are growing in numbers and find-a-bility allowing the gems to be created and found.

    I’ll reiterate that Y, Fables, and Walking Dead as some of the best to keep up with. I’ve never read any as single issues – just trades, so any gripes people have had with any of them just come off as lesser “chapters” to me.

    Just finished the 2nd Scalped collection. The first volume was very good, but this one clinched it as another great series for me.

  7. It may be fun fiction but all the Red State folks I know would bow down to the US military instantly and want to attack the Blue States.
    The US Military has become so full of Xtian extremists that I could see them starting a holy war against Blue States and trying to convert them ,AKA, Bin Laden, to religious extremism.
    general Pat Robertson, colonel Rod Parsley and minister of propaganda John Hagee.

  8. I just read this and issue 48 of The Walking dead back to back today. #48 left me speechless, but DMZ was every bit as powerful for entirely different reasons. It was comics like this that brought me back into the fold of collecting after a very long hiatus. I’m eagerly looking forward to the 5th DMZ graphic novel.

  9. @1

    I stopped reading Walking Dead a while ago when it passed the point from realistic broken down society type violence and zombie thriller into gratuitous torture porn full of vile characters that I had no emotional connection with and didn’t care whether they lived or died.

  10. Don’t get me wrong, I read and liked the first DMZ collection; it’s a fresh twist on the old “small town hick makes it in the big city” bit. You know: the tough life on the mean streets, the quest to win the heart of the hip chick, etc. Kind of like Escape from New York meets You’re A Big Boy Now, right? BUT: I had quite a difficult time taking it seriously as a VERY IMPORTANT STATEMENT about THESE HERE TROUBLED TIMES. I mean, come on, all that smug, hipsterish NYC-centrism (I kept wondering what was going on in Chicago); the way every character is some kind of colorful eccentric or underground saint; the romanticized hardships of bohemian life (with helicopter attacks substituting for street-corner muggings); etc. What am I missing? Do later volumes break out of this mold?

  11. “What am I missing? Do later volumes break out of this mold?”

    They do. Each story arc (volume) seems to step into slightly different territory. There’s always the continuing link of Matty Roth’s caustic personality, but other than that, Brian Wood has really taken this story in very different directions than I was expecting. I haven’t read any of the issues beyond the Friendly Fire arc, so I can’t say for sure, but it seems like he’s written the magnum opus of the serious already in vol. 4.

    Perhaps it’s a bad move when it comes to selling trades over the years (you always need a good “hook” first volume, i.e., Transmetropolitan Vol. 1, although Sandman seems to have done very well for itself even with its lackluster introduction), but the first volume of DMZ is almost a farce, showing how happily people can live in chaos, in a way, although it’s nowhere near a “nice” place to live. The subsequent volumes hint further at the hell that New York very recently was before Matty’s arrival, and how terrifying it could very easily become again.

    Again, it’s a shame it took Wood so long to get to a story like this, but read as a whole, it makes a lot of sense.

    (ALSO: Scalped Vol. 1 was definitely stronger than DMZ vol. 1 — and hit its stride with only the second volume. This book is the best thing Vertigo’s published in many years. Support Jason Aaron, and give it a read!)

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