DMZ (12): The Five Nations of New York – Brian Wood

DMZ 12This isn’t the dramatic conclusion or frenetic final act of DMZ, we have already had that. From page one this feels like the epilogue. It is a quiet and reflective look back at everything we have learnt. A chance to catch our breath and take stock of where were have come from and the road we have taken.

There is one dramatic payoff that you have probably forgotten about and fair play to Wood for sticking to his guns and doing it his way. This isn’t a volume you have to read but if you are a long term fan and you really “get” DMZ then you defiantly should.

The art meets its usual high standard with Burchielli drawing the whole book. There is nothing innovative or spectacular but big mute panels do a great job of slowing the pace right down. This also has one of the most perfect sunsets ever seen in comics. The final page is also a fitting sight, if a little cheesy.

A calm and peaceful end to this turbulent series. Thumbs Up!

291/74

Tomorrow: Half Dead – Barb Lien-Cooper & Park Cooper

DMZ (11): Free States Rising – Brian Wood

DMZ 11As DMZ is winding down the trademark hot topic of the week theme is receding into the background. We are moving from education to entertainment as we begin to wrap up the characters we have been following for so long.

This volume sees a back story for a supporting character and the reappearance of someone we thought gone for good. A third story sees a catch-up of what has been happening with Zee. There are some nice surprises and some questions answered.

The art is great with some really inspired palette choices making fantastic use of colour. This might be down to the addition of Martinbrough as co-artist. There are a lot of TV screen snippets giving us clues as to how it all began.

A solid Thumbs Up!

291/74

Tomorrow: DMZ (12): The Five Nations of New York – Brian Wood

DMZ (10): Collective Punishment – Brian Wood

DMZ 10DMZ has changed. It looks like the lengthy shock and awe exposé style of the initial volumes has gone for good, or at least for a while. What we have instead are short pieces of life writing that take us, quite briefly, into the heads of real fictional people.

We revisit a few supporting characters that, you have to admit, you were wondering what happened to. Some of these stories get a little abstract but if you have made it this far Wood suspects you are robust enough for a little weirdness.

There is a collection of artists once again, as has become the norm, but this time Burchielli is nowhere to be seen. Some quite abstract styles are at work as one would suspect when you ask an artist to draw a story about an artist drawing and some subtly creative flashbacks.

You might get the feeling this isn’t what you signed up for but the stories are still powerful and you don’t doubt they aren’t, in some way, relevant or true.

For the bravery of the creativity this maintains a Thumbs Up!

285/80

Tomorrow: The Highwaymen – Marc Bernardin & Adam Freeman

DMZ (9): M.I.A – Brian Wood

DMZ 09This volume is in two parts. The first is a collection of micro-stories. Some just single page, single paragraph, character studies; some are a little longer. These are all the neat, quirky ideas that Wood was sensible enough not to try and shoehorn into the main storyline. But, for the most part, they are worth telling.

Then we return to the main story for a very indulgent and melancholy slice of Matty’s mental state. This a protracted whine that although becomes grating very quickly really forces the reader into our protagonists head. You will love it or hate it but it does end on a very interesting note.

Continuing the collaborative art style we have ten different artists at work, thanks to the micro-stories, including Dave Gibbons. Some blend in, or even try to exceed the DMZ elegance, but two brave souls offer us some stunning black and white work. Both are perfect for the stories they tell and click neatly into the DMZ ethic. Full marks must go to Burchielli for allowing interlopers into his world with good grace.

Not to everyone’s taste possibly but it still doesn’t drop below a Thumbs Up!

283/82

Tomorrow: DMZ (10): Collective Punishment – Brian Wood

DMZ (8): Hearts and Minds – Brian Wood

DMZ 08It isn’t just the brilliant idea or the shockingly relevant source material that underpins this incredible title but the great writing and superb art.

This long book contains two stories. The first is a monologue by a new character unique to this piece. There are no people we know but it does tie into a previous story element perfectly. This could easily be a standalone treatise on just how easily war can drive people in the wrong direction.

The second concerns the shit hitting the fan over the previous big revelation. Matty gets deeper into the mire as he walks his new path with Delgado. We miss his old role as heroic guardian of the truth and fear for his future.

The art is great. No gratuitous grandstanding just subtle flairs of genius. This is what every artist should be aspiring to.

Another Double Thumbs Up!!

283/82

Tomorrow: DMZ (9): M.I.A – Brian Wood

DMZ (7): War Powers – Brian Wood

DMZ 07This book contains three different stories. First a two part look at what soldiers get up to when they aren’t being shot at. It isn’t what you think. Next is a major plot development in the ongoing storyline and finally Zee gets another issue to herself.

These have all the elements you have come to expect. Real world insight, twisting storyline and rounded, unpredictable characters.

This is another book with multiple artists all of whom embrace the DMZ style wonderfully. Burchielli keeps pulling neat little tricks out of the bag showing his passion and investment in this work. There are some minor digital appearances with a bit of motion blur and some snowfall. Both of these whilst unexpected are expertly executed.

You are getting used to DMZ so the shock and awe is wearing off but you are still engrossed. A solid Thumbs Up!

282/83

Tomorrow: DMZ (8): Hearts and Minds – Brian Wood

DMZ (6): Blood in the Game – Brian Wood

DMZ 06The Beginners Guide to Warzones that is DMZ rumbles logically into the territory of elections. It is frank and opinionated and lets you know just how corrupt it thinks these practices are. Our hero has less of the spotlight in this volume.

The art, the colours, the lettering are all high quality which is very impressive for what ran as a monthly title. This isn’t just by the numbers stuff, there is style and flair in what you are seeing. This doesn’t quite hit some of the previous highs but the layouts and panelling do an expert job keeping things fresh and interesting.

This is perhaps the most blunt and inelegant of the series to date but it is still a worthy read. Thumbs Up!

281/84

Tomorrow: DMZ (7): War Powers – Brian Wood

DMZ (5): The Hidden War – Brian Wood

DMZ 05This volume contains six separate stories focussed on minor characters – some known and some new. This is a stark change from the heavy reading of the previous books. This may seem like a light interlude but all are part of the bigger picture and connected to the plot. One of these is a shocking twist indeed and all are expertly told.

There are guest artists for two of the stories but they both keep to the established conventions. This has the same high standards and it is great to see the art is given as much weight and freedom as the words.

An excellent Thumbs Up!

280/85

Tomorrow: DMZ (6): Blood in the Game – Brian Wood

DMZ (4): Friendly Fire – Brian Wood

DMZ 04This is powerful stuff. Although fictional you feel that this is as real as it gets. Wood is deadly serious and his gloves are coming off. So far he has changed many of the names to protect the guilty but this time you know exactly who he is going after in this gut-wrenching tour-de-force.

Using a monologue approach and listening to characters tell their own stories to our protagonist while the pictures mime along is stunningly effective. DMZ has established its own style and shorthand. We know by the type of lettering who is speaking and can hear their voice clear as day in our heads. This is the finest example of “life writing” ever fictionalised.

Because it is fiction you keep hoping for a happy ending. You have been conditioned to believe the good guys win. With DMZ and its home-truth honesty you don’t get that any more. Although reading a book to escape you are shown the world around you clearer than you have ever seen it before.

There is a frank introduction by a former soldier that sets the serious tone for the piece. There is also a short introduction, cast of characters and faction rundown. These are unnecessary for those who have been reading along but provide a jumping on point for anyone new or who reads this volume in isolation.

The art is just off the scale with some incredible rainy scenes that use only grey for colouring. All the colour and lighting is superb with some almost psychedelic combinations. There is a different artist for one issue that you don’t notice until you look back as you are shocked and awed by the story.

This is most forceful DMZ to date and probably one of the finest graphic novels ever written. The best of the best and a Double Thumbs Up!

279/86

Tomorrow: DMZ (5): The Hidden War – Brian Wood

DMZ (3): Public Works – Brian Wood

DMZ 03This is astoundingly good stuff. You are captivated and riveted by this incredible story. It is so tense and dramatic you are holding your breath and on the edge of your seat. Never before have you feared so greatly for a fictional character.

Everything about this story is perfectly executed. Not just the pacing and plotting but the sophisticated way it is told. Matty’s narration puts you right there beside him, the news reports add authenticity and pictures make you an eyewitness.

The most shocking part of this fictitious story is it is actually true. You know that in other places under other names the greed, corruption and inhumanity you see on the page has actually happened and may be happening somewhere in the world right now.

The art is incredible and goes all out. There are picture perfect examples of light and shade to die for. Burchielli handles darkness incredibly well and can do so much with it. It is gratifying such a powerful story has such extraordinary art.

This is a story that needs and deserves to be told. Let’s hope it isn’t too late for us to listen. Double Thumbs Up!!

278/87

Tomorrow: DMZ (4): Friendly Fire – Brian Wood