Sunday, 4 July 2010

Now Leaving Civilisation

I've recently picked up a new series of graphic novels known as DMZ which is written by Brian Wood and illustrated by Riccardo Burchielli. I picked it up on the suggestion of one of the staff members of my local comic book store and since he'd never steered my wrong before I thought for £7.50 what's the worst that could happen?
Well the worst that could happen was that I found out that it's pretty darn interesting and I now have an urge to buy the rest of the series (which currently stands on volume 8). DMZ is set in a semi-fictional future in which during Americas numerous wars an uprising occurs which causes a second American civil war to begin.
Interestingly however the story is not about the war that is occurring but more about the situation that has happened to the isle of Manhattan which has now become a DMZ (Demilitarized Zone) with the United States of America occupying Brooklyn/Queens and Long Island. Where the newly formed Free States occupying New Jersey and the Inland. As for the situation regarding how this happened you will have to read the series what I would like to inform you of is the moral grey regarding this series.
Outside of the DMZ there are two sides spamming propaganda regarding the situation of the war where the realistic view is that nothing is happening and at the start of the story and uneasy ceasefire is in place around the DMZ. Matthew (Matty) Roth is an intern for the fictional Liberty News Network who are a part of the USA. He is sent in with a famous reporter known as Viktor Ferguson to cover the stories of the DMZ which has basically been a black hole for news since its inception.
Matty is only sent in because of his father's connections and he's not particularly street smart. Almost immediately after entering the DMZ his helicopter is shot down and the second is blown to pieces. He's left with no support, lots of equipment he has no idea how to use and pretty much a giant target on himself as an outsider.
When reading DMZ it gives you an uneasy feeling much like Escape from New York when Snake first goes walking around the streets. There is a world here regardless of if you can see it or not. Frequent references to Ground Zero and how no one goes near it as it's like a tomb and how the Empire State Building is a no go zone. The people that think they can take up a sniping spot there are quickly found being thrown out of a window by someone or something.
DMZ has its own mythology told through the eyes of the people who live in the zone. The majority of them were left to poor to have the money to pay their way out or an ethnic race that no one cared about. Others stayed because they wanted to help and others stayed because the war would be over tomorrow and some prime real estate on the upper east side would be worth something soon. The DMZ has been in existence for 2 years at the start of the story and it has no sign of ending.
The characters that Brian Wood creates are quirky with a sense of humour and many interesting views on their world around them. One of the central themes is belonging and how the people in the DMZ are more like a tribe than anything. They're all experiencing this thing from the inside and no one else could understand. People outside of the DMZ see them as rat eating feral people that were stupid enough to stay when everyone else left. The truth is very much different. There are nightclubs and there are caf├ęs but there are also warlords, cults and insurgents.
One of the characters is Zee, a former medical student at a hospital in the city. She chose to stay in the city as she had no illusions that people would be left behind and they would need care. She's a doctor and she's the one who helps matty. He almost gets her killed through his naivety. He thinks that those who sent him in wanted to help everyone and when he thinks he's going to get out, they find out where he is and bomb the area. His illusions are shattered and so our ours. This is war, there are no goodies or baddies there is just oceans of moral grey.
The only real question is: How do I survive today?

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