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DMZ Vol. 6: Blood in the Game

DMZ, Vol. 6: Blood in the Game - Riccardo Burchielli, Brian Wood My star rating reflects the art only. I got this super-cheap at a used book store, and I really only got it for the art, which is strange and enticing. The characters are drawn very simplistic and comic-y, but machines and buildings are drawn in fine detail. It’s kind of like comic people living in an almost-real world. Check out the beautiful full-page drawing of the Brooklyn Bridge on p.53, or the buildings on page 57, or the helicopter on page 79. Now look at the people on pages 51 and 85. See what I mean? It’s like putting the Simpsons in a Paul Calle drawing. There is a lot of bold light and shadowing, which is visually interesting. Sometimes the foreground is in sharp focus and the background is sort of blurred or hazy, as if things are being seen through a camera lens. It’s an interesting and distinctive style. I really like it. Now I’m going to be a real asshole and review the story, even though it’s part 6 of a 10 part series, and I haven’t read parts 1-5. I’m even going to complain that I don’t know what’s going on, as if that’s the fault of the writers, because I'm a renegade reviewer who gives no thought to such things.This is one of those high-technology-amidst-the-rubble stories of futuristic urban decay and political upheaval. It’s not difficult to spot the influences of Escape From New York, Robocop or Max Headroom here. The artwork hints at a lot of recent catastrophe- there’s a partially-capsized aircraft carrier in New York harbor, for example, but I can’t tell from this issue what exactly happened. I do know it is the near future, maybe twenty years or so from now. Whatever happened involved massive social unrest in America, and a civil war, or political breakdown of some kind. Now UN forces are on the streets, keeping the peace, but not really. In many ways, they are part of the problem- corrupt, taking advantage of the poor citizens, etc. This is stuff UN troops in Cambodia really were criticized for when they were supervising elections there in the 90’s. A breakaway republic from the U.S. is called “The Free States of America.” I’m not sure where the boundaries are, but New York City is in the “Demilitarized Zone (DMZ)” between the FSA and USA- hence the title. The city is divided up Berlin-style into areas of influence. This issue revolves around efforts to give New York a provisional government and hold mayoral elections.I like the main character, Matty Roth. He thinks he’s an idealistic journalist, but he‘s too confounded by all the skullduggery around him to be of much service to his ideals. He gets used by a lot of people: the propagandistic newspaper he works for, the charismatic mayoral candidate whose campaign he’s covering and his parents, for starters. It would be a complex situation for anybody to navigate, but Matty makes things more difficult for himself because he thinks he’s more savvy and badass than he really is. Usually he’s likable, although at times the innocent-underdog-inadvertently-succeeding-despite-himself shtick can get a bit Jar-Jar Binks. He wouldn’t last very long, if it weren’t for his mother- a very annoying plot device. She’s a wealthy and powerful political consultant- kind of a Karl Rove or James Carvell. Naturally she has all sorts of connections that protect Matty and help him get stories. As far as I’m concerned, giving the main character access to somebody so high up in power is just a hair’s breadth from being deus ex machina; it makes everything feel a little too convenient. Maybe that’s a misread, because Matty’s mom might be using him for her own agenda. Still, I’d rather follow the story of a journalist who had to draw more on his own wit to get by. Matty’s mom also raises some potential plausibility problems: if she's so rich, why doesn’t Matty live a more privileged life? He certainly hasn’t distanced himself from her, or refused her help. Can you picture one of Karl Rove or James Carvelle’s kids working such a dangerous, low paying job? And where did all of Matty’s idealism come from, when dear old Mom is the sort of person who would have a homeless woman killed to frame her for a political assassination? Matty’s father isn’t much of an idealist either, we learn, but it isn’t worth elaborating on. Maybe these questions get answered elsewhere. The back cover teases “[this comic] examines the role war can play in an election, and vice versa.” I see how it’s building in that direction, but the payoff looks a long way away.