The two themes from the first three books – of the real-life implications of war and politics and of the supposedly impartial role of news and journalism – are not only extended in Brian Wood’s “DMZ (Book Four, Book Five)”, yet also complement a broader political allegory about American adventurism and interventions, especially after September 11, which is aptly summed up through the expression: “Every day is 9/11”. And through the experiences of protagonist Matthew (Matty) Roth, who starts out as an investigative journalist but is later involved in the political and military developments of the demilitarised zone, the reader therefore watches and is confronted with the realities of armed conflict, and is perhaps compelled to extend this perspective to the foreign wars the United States has been involved with or has perpetuated, to confront the realities of violence.
There is some prescience in the storytelling – given the present American military or geopolitical quagmires in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Yemen for instance – yet the country’s involvement in Liberia, Haiti, and Somalia is alluded to.
Books four and five, in terms of their plot and character narratives, do a good job of tying up loose ends. First, the origin of the Free States armies – which took over as the military and the National Guard were engaged abroad in foreign wars, and which is now pitted against the federal government – were illustrated. Second, Matty’s character development is characterised by his initial descent to a new low, his desperation and increasing guilt, and his eventual attempt at redemption. And third, through a series of delightful issues and vignettes, some attention was given to the other characters too (personal favourites include the ones involving Wilson and his criminal organisation guarding Chinatown, graffiti artist Decade Later, as well as attempts to save collections from the museums). Collectively, a realistic storyline is complemented by an intensely believable setting.
“DMZ (Book Four, Book Five)”, in other words, continues to deliver with its intensity and its parallels to contemporary America (or New York City), with a Matty-focused conclusion which is neither contrived nor disappointing. Without giving too much away, the final story arcs involving Matty and medical student Zee Hernandez, Matty’s military trial – illustrated through brilliant panel juxtapositions of his supposed crimes and his flashbacks of the said incidents – and subsequent sentencing, and both the publication and presentation of Matty’s book made for a very satisfying conclusion. From the creative use of news broadcast captions to indicate the influence of the media to the constant reminders of war-torn city, furthermore, there is much to love.