There is so much epicness in the world of comics, but there are those titles that rise to the very top of this epic pile of epic epicness. One of these titles is Brian Wood and Riccardo Burchielli's DMZ.
I've always been fascinated with the what if question - the idea of alternate history or speculative future. The could have, should have or might have stories that twist our world just enough so that everything is familiar but still different enough to entice, like the cookie you didn't realise had hash in it. In fact, one of my own in-progress graphic novels is based in a world in which Nazi Germany succeeded in invading England. A world that is clearly not our own, but one that is recognisable as what could have been. I enjoy writing these stories because of the sense of unease they develop in the reader. Of all my favourite comics one I would love to have written (apart from my own of course) would be DMZ.
DMZ stands for De-Militarized Zone (cool title - check). It is set in the near future in which the United States has fallen into its second civil war against the "Free States" (cool speculative premise - check). Fighting between the two sides results in New York being split with New Jersey and Inland falling into the hands of the Free States and Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island remaining the territory of the United States. Manhattan Island is caught in the middle and made the DMZ, the De-Militarized Zone, it's basically Baghdad taken off America's CNN TV screens and shoved down their throats - right in the middle of New York City so that the buildings with holes in them are bigger.
The series revolves around Matty Roth, a young photojournalist who, during an internship, finds himself trapped alone in the DMZ. He is suddenly the only member of the press on the island and takes it upon himself to report life in the DMZ to the outside world.
If DMZ's premise alone doesn't make it good stuff it's creative team certainly does. Brian Wood loves the world he's created and the characters he inhabits it with, you can just tell from the writing. Whether it is some response to post-9/11 America or not, the writing resonates with a real grit about conflict and the hazy line of right and wrong. The world is deep and well thought through, the dialogue pops and the characters crackle, add the snap of Wood's graphic design touch and you've got a tasty bowl. It's also a relief to see an American writer bring about the destruction of the US and highlight its inadequacies, instead of blowing Uncle Sam's Golden Trumpet of Patriotism that we see so often.
Riccardo Burchielli's artwork is stellar stuff too. An Italian artist, DMZ is Burchielli's first work in the US and it's a shame we haven't seen him hit the world stage of comics earlier. His stylised, a little rough around the edges look is perfect for the book and compliments Wood's writing really well. He paints, or more accurately pencils, a believable New York City as a battlefield.
While I'm sure the US actually deteriorating into civil war would not be good stuff, being entertained by a fictional account of what may happen if it did is good stuff. DMZ is good stuff, and like the graffiti that is shown early in the series says, in the DMZ "Everyday is 9/11."