DMZ 5: The Hidden War, a war comic about non-combatants

The fifth collected volume of Brian Wood's comic DMZ, "The Hidden War," does the least to advance the story of any of the collections to date -- but does more to advance its theme than any book so far. And that makes it the best book in the series, if you ask me.

DMZ, for those of you who've missed it, is Brian Wood's brilliant (anti-)war comic, telling the story of Matty Roth, a news-rookie who ends up being the only trusted reporter on the besieged island of Manhattan, the DMZ in an American civil war that has torn the city to shreds.

The thing that sets DMZ apart, more than anything else, is its glorification of non-combatants as the true heroes of war. The people who don't want to shoot a gun at anyone, who want to live and love and eat and take care of their children and make art and do their jobs. The true sides to any war are the warriors (of both sides) and the people in their way. The ideological differences between combatants and non-combatants are much deeper than those between the combatants themselves. People who think jihad and the war on terror are both ridiculous have less in common with jihadis and terror-warriors than those parties have with each other.

Book five, "The Hidden War," tells the tales of those non-combatants more vividly than any of the other books to date. Skipping between a graffiti artist, a DJ, a reporter, a mob boss, and an eco-warrior, The Hidden War threads these loosely connected stories together into a unitary whole whose message is, "Fight your war somewhere else." It's a powerful message, and one exceedingly well conveyed through the tense plotting and sharp dialog that have established Wood as one of the great comic-writers of the decade. DMZ Vol. 5: The Hidden War

See also:
* DMZ Friendly Fire: reinventing war comics, making them better and more important
* DMZ Public Works: New collection of moving, thrilling graphic novel
* DMZ: graphic novel, a worthy successor to Transmetropolitan


  1. Cory, I’ve got you to thank for turning me on to this incredible series. I just read volume 2, “Body of a Journalist,” this weekend. As soon as I get some more cash I’ll be buying all of the other volumes in the series.
    I don’t know if anyone else is in this same situation, but I can’t afford to keep up with monthly installments of my favorite comics. Too little time and money. Just easier to buy the graphic novels.

  2. “Fight your war somewhere else” ??

    They already do. That’s the real problem.

    Haven’t noticed any kids getting blown apart in London or New York recently.

  3. An excellent description for book 5. At first I was annoyed that it doesn’t advance the larger storyline at all, but after reading the six disparate stories it’s apparent that this volume says more than the first four combined.

    You hone in on one thing that’s struck me about this series. It’s not about war or soldiers or lofty ideals of freedom or oppression. DMZ focuses on the part the media tends to ignore – the ones caught in the middle. The main character becomes a voice for those that the media otherwise ignores, whom do not otherwise *have* a voice.

    Wood’s use of Manhattan as a DMZ is the epitome of a “middle” with the two armies amassed on either side, raining fire and destruction on those inbetween. Frankly, it’s also easier for me to relate to since the war zone is Manhattan, a place I’ve been to countless times and for which I have a good amount of affection.

    Some of my favorite graphic novels are fun (Preacher), some are literature (Sandman), some paint fantastic worlds (Y: The Last Man, Watchmen) and some are so poignant and well-written that you can’t help but be engrossed and admire the artists (DMZ).

  4. Ditto what Matt S wrote: thanks Cory. Your track record on books for me is such that I now just automatically buy whatever you plug!

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