12.14.2010

The 12 Days of Comics: 2010 - Day 2


"DMZ" by Brian Wood & Riccardo Burchielli (DC/Vertigo)
Demographic: Socio-Political Current Events/CNN Fans
Selected by: Justin Giampaoli
Subsequent Interview by: Ryan Claytor

Justin: My first selection is “DMZ,” written by Brian Wood. Riccardo Burchielli is the main series artist, but the book has been blessed with some terrific fill-in artists on several one-shot issues, such as Nathan Fox, Danijel Zezelj, and most recently, David Lapham. “DMZ” is predicated on a not-too-distant future where the US overextends itself abroad, social unrest peaks, and essentially the Red States and Blue States descend into the Second American Civil War. The titular “DMZ” is the De-Militarized Zone of Manhattan, the battlefront which separates the secessionist Free States of America (FSA) from the remnants of the USA. The book's anchor is Matthew Roth, a green journalist who is literally dropped into the DMZ as the series opens.

With the situation between North and South Korea recently bubbling up, and the US sending the USS George Washington aircraft carrier group into the region, I think Brian Wood's conceit was eerily prescient. The national debt is in runaway mode, unemployment isn't fully recovering, we're unsustainably engaged in Iraq, Afghanistan, likely the North and South Korea dispute, and maybe even Iran in the coming years. Domestic tension is at an all time high with the divisive nature of our two-party system. We have extreme splinter movements like The Tea Party, and the train wreck that is Sarah Palin. My intent here is not to get political on a comics blog, but merely to illustrate what an avante-garde thinker Brian Wood is and how it's reflected by the sentiment of “DMZ,” which I feel is becoming a tangible potential reality. It's important reading, and the experience is only heightened by the artistic efforts of Riccardo Burchielli, who effectively captures the grit and danger of a war torn cityscape. Seeing Manhattan as a bombed out war zone is startling. It carries with it haunting echoes of 9/11 that still reside in the collective consciousness.

Issue #59 came out in November, and Wood recently announced that the series will build toward a conclusion with issue #72. Vertigo has been quite responsible with collecting the series in trades in a timely fashion, the first 8 of which are available and reasonably priced. More information can be found at http://www.brianwood.com/, and http://www.amazon.com/ is fully stocked with Brian Wood wares. I should note that I've been giving “DMZ” to my dad as stocking stuffers for the last couple of years, and he's enjoyed it immensely. For our readers, it's worth pointing out that “DMZ” can also function as a good gateway comic. If you enjoy the socio-political angle, you can pursue books like “Ex Machina” (DC/WildStorm) by Brian K. Vaughan & Tony Harris, or if you enjoy Brian Wood's writing, there are plenty of other books available in his library.

Ryan: Even before you mentioned North/South Korea, I was thinking what a haunting, smart, and artistic political forecast this is, made even more frightening by its potential to occur. It's sad to think about how our country has become so divided in recent years. Sometimes it's difficult to believe we are, indeed, one nation. I haven't read through this series, but your description of it, combined with your recent Brian Wood contempospective make me want to go pick up a couple trades. This is certainly not getting my token kibosh.

Before we make way for Day #3 of “The 12 Days of Comics: 2010,” I'm curious about how Brian Wood weighs in on politics in this book. In other words, would this be a gift that one could give to a conservative relative, or do you have to enjoy the occasional "Daily Show" viewing to appreciate this book?

Justin: That's a great question. I know from following Brian Wood on Twitter that he *personally* definitely leans toward the Liberal Left being from the Northeast. I've even seen some online attacks claiming that “DMZ” is some sort of "liberal fantasy." I have to say though, that in the work itself, he's not soap-boxing his own beliefs. I think Brian would tell you that he tries to present a very balanced set of arguments in “DMZ.” Neither the FSA nor the USA is depicted as "good guy" or "bad guy." There's an arc in particular that rejects the entire notion of a binary two-party system and introduces an iconoclast third party candidate named Parco Delgado. All of the political ideologies in “DMZ” possess their valid points, as well as flaws in their stance. I think that's, in part, what gives the book its real-world credibility.

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