When Brian Wood's brilliant America-at-war comic DMZ completed its six-year run in 2012, I wished for Vertigo to bring out a single edition collecting the whole series. They haven't quite gotten there, but with tomorrow's release of DMZ: The Deluxe Edition Book One, they're getting close. The large, beautifully produced, gorgeous hardcover collects the first 12 issues of the comic -- the equivalent of the first two trade paperback collections. A followup collection, due in June, picks up issues 13-28. At this rate, the whole thing will end up in four-to-six books, suitable to being drunk down in one long, engrossing, chilling, thrilling draft.
Here's my synopsis of the setup from my review of the final volume (which was nothing less than brilliant -- Wood really nailed the ending):
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If you're just tuning in, DMZ is the story of an America caught in the midst of so many "elective" overseas military adventures that the nation itself crumbles and is gripped in a civil war between a guerrilla force of the "Free United States" and the military-industrial complex, mostly in the form of vicious, private military contractors. NYC is the place where the two forces clash, the "DMZ" where there are many civilians, but no innocents. Matty Roth, the story's hero, is a helper with a news crew for Liberty News, the hyper-patriotic, semi-state-owned propaganda news service. As he arrives in New York, his helicopter is shot down, and he finds himself catapulted into a new role as a boy reporter.
The Couriers: The Complete Series collects four short stories from early in Brian "DMZ" Wood's career, involving a pair of courier/ninjas who run parcels for crime syndicates, shady characters, and other nonstandard enterprises. They're armed to the teeth, hyper-violent, skillful, wisecracking, and remorseless. Think of Kick-Ass crossed with Run, Lola, Run. It's lovely stuff, and the art conveys that Taratino-ey balletic violence in a way I'd never have suspected was possible without actual moving pictures. This is silly and fluffy, but witty and well-told, and it's the kind of stuff you can't stop reading once you've started.
As a bonus for Brian Wood fans, Image Comics has just brought out issue one of Mara, a new, six-issue future-dystopic tale drawn by Jordie Bellaire & Ming Doyle, which starts very strong.
There is practically nothing I can tell you about this installment that isn't a spoiler. So, without going into detail, let me say that this is the kind of ending you really want for a story you've followed, been moved by, and lived in for half a decade. Wood has nailed the dismount here, pulled off an ending that literally made the hair on the back of my neck stand up as I read the final pages, and after I closed the cover, it left me with my eyes closed, holding the book against my body, as I absorbed the impact.
If you're just tuning in, DMZ is the story of an America caught in the midst of so many "elective" overseas military adventures that the nation itself crumbles and is gripped in a civil war between a guerrilla force of the "Free United States" and the military-industrial complex, mostly in the form of vicious, private military contractors. NYC is the place where the two forces clash, the "DMZ" where there are many civilians, but no innocents. Matty Roth, the story's hero, is a helper with a news crew for Liberty News, the hyper-patriotic, semi-state-owned propaganda news service. As he arrives in New York, his helicopter is shot down, and he finds himself catapulted into a new role as a boy reporter. Read the rest
As the final volume of Brian Wood's brilliant anti-war graphic novel DMZ nears publication, Dominic Umile looks back on the series' 72 issue run of political allegory and all the ways that it used the device of fiction to make trenchant comic on the real world. DMZ is a story about the "State of Exception" that the American establishment declared after 9/11, a period when human rights, civil liberty, economic sanity, and the constitution all play second-fiddle to the all-consuming war on terror. Like the best allegories, it works first and best as a story in its own right, but it is also an important comment on the world we live in.
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In DMZ #8, Matty Roth reviews a series of New York Times newspapers to reconstruct a timeline of the book’s war. Burchielli’s panels are nearly blacked-out. It’s as if Roth is squatting on a darkened stage: Nothing behind him is discernible outside of more yellowed newspapers, each slugged with copy that’s painfully close to our own real-life headlines. Brian Wood’s chief character is despondent and sounds like many of us do today in the era of Occupy Wall Street, hostilities in Afghanistan, the Obama administration’s drone campaign, and rampant corruption plaguing state and federal government, all amid an ever-theatric run-up to another presidential election.
Even as DMZ had another 64 issues and more than five years to go, Roth’s thoughts are rendered with an undeniable degree of both prescience and finality: “I never paid attention to politics. Never seemed to be a point.
Free States Rising is the 11th (and penultimate) collection of Brian Wood's masterful (anti-)war comic, DMZ. Wood has spent the past half-decade spinning this tightly plotted, gripping, and sardonic adventure story about a second American civil war fought in Manhattan, told from the point-of-view of Matty Roth, a reporter who becomes part of the story. DMZ is a textbook example of how science fiction can provide just enough distance between the real world and the reader to allow for a critique that is trenchant, but never strident. So here in volume 11, we have drone-wars, austerity, conspiracy and crass media manipulation, and it's all allegorical as hell, but since none of it constitutes an actual accusation about the actual world with its actual wars, it's possible to consider it all at arm's length and realize a) how profoundly screwed up Wood's world is, and b) how like our own it is.
If you've been following DMZ for all these years, volume 11 will not disappoint, as Wood crashes towards what promises to be a tremendous finish. This volume also contains a two-part short prequel to the series, explaining something of the origin of the "Free States Army," one of the factions in the DMZ story. Here's my reviews of the previous volumes.
Free download of the entire 132-page Public Domain 2 artbook (Thanks, Mel!) Read the rest
I am offering a free download of the entire 132-page Public Domain 2 artbook. It's about 115 megs, nicely high res, and looks great imported onto my iphone and ipad. It represents about a decade of sketches and random art.
If you like it, please pick up a copy of the signed and numbered ltd ed print book! Khepri's selling the remaining stock, both editions, and its the only place you can pick it up. There will be no further editions of the book beyond this. Also be sure to check out the mini-screenprints.
Collective Punishment is the story of a "surge" aimed at breaking the back of the resistance in Manhattan, the titular DMZ in a dirty civil war that has split America. Told from the points of view of traitors, refugees, artists, prisoners, power brokers, radicalized civilians and soldiers, the powerful and the powerless, these stories are particularly poignant today, as bombs fall in Libya and security forces shoot at protesters in Syria and Bahrain.
Wood's version of a war story is all grit, no romance. As always, he's telling the story of people who are the involuntary spectators and participants in someone else's clash of civilizations. It's a perspective that's simultaneously unforgiving and deeply emphatic, and it's why Wood's DMZ is some of the best material written about war in any medium.
Hearts and Minds, the last volume of DMZ, finished with Matty in a terrible, howling moral vacuum, and this volume opens up with a series of guest-written/drawn sequences that offer flashbulb glimpses into the nobility and sacrifice, the venality and cowardice of war-torn New York.
Then Wood retakes the reins, and paints a picture of Matty Roth, transformed hero of the series, wracked by guilt and self-pity, careening toward self-annihilation, having lost all hope and will. But Wood's not done with Matty, and by the time this episode ends, there's a trademark Wood-ian mixture of redemption without forgiveness to be had through a series of satisfying plot twists that illuminate and confuse the story at the same time.
Wood's written a lot of great stuff (I ran out and read everything he'd done as soon as I'd finished with DMZ one) but this is really his masterwork, an end-of-the-world story that refuses to buy into trite cozy apocalypse, into dog-eat-dog self-rationalized barbarism, or into Pollyanna fables about everyone kissing and making up.
I don't think you can really read this volume without getting into the earlier ones (and I'd argue that the series is so big that it's time for some giant hardcover omnibuses, like the Walking Dead hardcovers), but that just means you should go out and read those earlier ones. Read the rest
Dark Horse just sent me a review copy of The Life And Times Of Martha Washington In The Twenty-First Century, a gigantic, slipcased hardcover containing the full run of the Give Me Liberty comics and associated titles.
I have Frank Miller's Give Me Liberty graphic novels to thank for getting me interested in graphic novels as a literary form. I read the first Give Me Liberty collection when I was seventeen, after having it thrust insistently into my hands by my roommate Erik Stewart. Erik judged -- correctly -- that I'd find in Miller's groundbreaking tale the same satisfaction I got from reading the best sf novels. He was so right.
Give Me Liberty is the story of Martha Washington, a kid from a futuristic version of Chicago's notorious Cabrini Green projects, simply called "The Green," who joins the US Army in order to escape from poverty. Martha finds herself serving in the army of a country locked in a death-spiral, plagued by political assassination, partisan division, secessionists, cynical corporatism... Her military education becomes a political education and on the way, Miller and Gibbons impart a raging, angry story about corruption and injustice, paced so relentlessly that I found myself buying the single issues between the collections and re-reading them looking for clues as to what might come next.
Miller created Give Me Liberty for Dark Horse after he jumped ship from DC, for whom he had made a fortune with his noir Batman: Dark Knight books, which changed the field forever. Read the rest
Only now, Matty's independence is crumbling. Under the influence of Parco Delgado -- a charismatic gang-leader who wins a surprise victory in an NYC election that was meant to give legitimacy to the USA's hand-picked Paul Bremmer figure -- Matty now finds himself playing the role of political operator, putting his ethics and his life on the line in the service of something he clearly hopes is justice.
As with previous volumes, War Powers grabbed me by the scruff of the neck and didn't let go until I turned the last page. Brian Wood is exploring the place where journalism and advocacy intersect (or collide), and in so doing, he is holding up an important mirror on our own times.
DMZ is my favorite graphic novel since Transmetropolitan, a relentless adventure story, a sharp political allegory, and a damned good read.
Previous collections: Vol 1: On the Ground, Vol 2: Body of a Journalist, Vol 3: Public Works, Vol 4: Friendly Fire, Vol 5: The Hidden War, Vol 6: Blood in the Game, Vol 7: War Powers Previously:Boing Boing: DMZ: graphic novel, a worthy successor to ... Read the rest
America's civil war has its front lines in Manhattan, in the DMZ where the Free States (separatist militiamen), the USA and its military contractor, Trustwell (a stand-in for Halliburton or Blackwater) all clash. For years, Matty Roth, a roving reporter who has an on-again/off-again relationship with Liberty News (think Fox News) has cataloged the human cost of the manipulative, cynical profiteering on all sides of the conflict, but now he's even more in the thick of it than ever.
It's election season in the DMZ. New York will elect its own governor and become independent -- supposedly. In reality, it appears that the fix is in, with the USA prepared to install a "Paul Bremer wannabe" as a puppet ruler. Then Parco Delgado, a street-fighting charismatic (derided as "a cross between Al Sharpton and Che Guevara") throws his hat in to the ring, declaring himself to be the real choice of the people. Matty is swept up in populist fervor (only slightly dimmed when he discovers that the Delgado Nation has hired his estranged mother, a left-wing political operative, to run the campaign) and breaks with Liberty News just as an unsuccessful assassination attempt puts Delgado in hospital.
A story about the limits of democracy and the power of populism, about the role of the press and the bravery of the voter, Blood in the Game furthers the fantastic work that Wood has done thus far on his story set in an utterly plausible America at war with itself. Read the rest