Sunday, March 11, 2007

DMZ: Body of a Journalist

Written for the University of Windsor Lance.

DMZ: Body of a Journalist
Written by Brian Wood
Art by Riccardo Burchielli, Kristian Donaldson, and Brian Wood
168 pgs., $15.99

The United States of America is under siege by terrorists, insurgents, and traitors--its own citizens. New York City is caught in the middle of the two forces, the US government and the Free States. It’s not safe to walk the street, firefights occur on a regular basis, and the people who live there just try and make it through the day alive.

In the second collection of Brian Wood and Riccardo Burchielli’s DMZ, we are given more background on what has split America in two and turned its largest city into an American Baghdad. Our window into the city is Matty Roth, a photographer imbedded partly through chance and partly through choice, who tries to capture what life is like in the city and show the world what has become of NYC.

Body of a Journalist contains three stories, the first taking up the bulk of the book. In it, the Free States reveal that they have journalist Viktor Ferguson hostage and Matty is put in the position of acting as the go-between for the government and Free States. Wood and Burchielli shine here as the idea of media manipulation by the government is explored in shocking and all-too-real ways, with Matty finding himself a pawn in a propaganda war he didn’t know existed.

As well, this story provides background on how America became split like through Matty’s research. The key line seems to be “The Free States are an idea, not a geographic entity.” This America is one torn in two after its citizens have become so frustrated and angry with the government that they felt compelled to rebel, eventually making New York their centre of operations.

The second story, “Zee, NYC” provides the history of Zee, a friend of Matty’s who was a medical student and now acts as a doctor in the DMZ. Wood, along with art by Kristian Donaldson, shows the final days before evacuation of New York and how exactly so many people got left behind.

The third story, “New York Times” is Wood’s first work as writer and artist since his series Channel Zero. Not quite a typical comic story, “New York Times” is a guide to the DMZ as told by Matty. Information on neighbourhoods, restaurants and the local art scene is included.

However, the most powerful elements of the story are the profiles included of people who live in the DMZ. Not everyone views the situation they live in as negative and most try their best to live normal lives.

Throughout the book, Wood’s writing captures a basic level of humanity that prevents it from seeming like a rant on politics. While the political message is there, what gets across most of all is just how horrible it is that anyone would have to live in a place like this. And that even in places like the DMZ, people endure and live their lives as best they can.

The city of New York is also a character in the book as not only does its people endure, so does the city. It adapts and it manages to find a way to still be New York.

DMZ is quite possibly the best piece of fiction currently being produced that tackles the current political climate of the world and does so by bringing it right to the most American city there is. It is brutal, honest and a must-read.

Also available--DMZ: On the Ground