The Propaganda Reviews – from couscous to the war zone

Published On June 8, 2007 | By Richard Bruton | Comics, Reviews

This is Propaganda, I’m Richard Bruton and this is what I’ve been reading lately:

DMZ Volume 1: On The Ground
Written by Brian Wood
Art by Riccardo Burchielli

DMZ volume 1 on the ground.jpg

Based on his previous track record with fantastic books like Channel Zero, Couriers, Couscous Express and Demo the idea of Brian Wood creating a Vertigo book was a very attractive prospect. But unfortunately DMZ is a good rather than a great book

In DMZ America is in the middle of its second civil war, with Middle America forces declaring themselves as Free America and pushing back the United States Of America forces to the coast of New York. And in the middle of this is the island of Manhattan; the front line of the civil war – America’s De Militarised Zone – the DMZ.

And like all modern warfare, the press want to be as embedded as they can get. Matty Roth is just an intern looking for his way into a photojournalist gig. He’s landed a job flying into the DMZ with a veteran journo which quickly goes completely wrong leaving Matty alone, lost and completely out of his depth deep in the heart of Manhattan, with the only thing keeping him alive being his Press Pass and his growing fame as the only journalist in the DMZ.

DMZ follows Matty’s gradual acceptance of his plight and his realisation that perhaps he has a role to play in the war by simply reporting the truth live from the frontline.

DMZ issue 1 DC Vertigo.jpg

It’s a commentary on modern life as well as modern warfare. Matty spends his time wandering, observing and meeting the casualties of war and the innocent and not so innocent caught up in a war they want no part of. After the first issue setting up the story and the plot, each issue looks at the people inhabiting the DMZ. We have all the usual stereotypes and some nicely imagined combatants and non-combatants. My favourite being the sniper without bullets using his super gun to date an enemy sniper miles and miles away in New Jersey. Their only contact for their love affair being notes visible through their super sniper gun scopes

And this episodic, wandering observer story works up to a point in DMZ. It never completely got me, but it at least kept me reading what is obviously a well written and excellently drawn book.
Unfortunately for me after 5 issues I felt it was really going somewhere and I was getting into the story and wanted to know where the story was heading next. Which was when the book ended.

Because like most other Vertigo books these days, DMZ only collects 5 issues of the comic. This is actually more than the usual 4 issues these days but it’s still not enough. Especially as most good comic writers these days are actually writing for collection. Now I’m not sure when it changed, but I always thought 6 was the minimum that worked as a collection (I’d agree totally with that, in general – Joe). Preferably more. Sandman, Preacher, Animal Man, Transmetropolitan all worked so much more effectively with thicker volumes. But Vertigo seems insistent on the format.

Which is why I finished DMZ with a feeling that I’d barely started. The five issues were enough to get me interested but not enough to get me hooked. At some point I may pick up the second volume, but it would have been a lot nicer to have had a thicker, more satisfying first volume. Maybe then, I’d have seen more of the potential this book is showing.

But if you’re after something more fully formed and altogether more wonderful by Brian Wood, may I suggest…….

Couscous Express
Written by Brian Wood, Art by Brain Weldele

couscous express brian wood.jpg

Couscous Express is simply a great read, sharp, very slick and very cool.

Brian Wood’s story about a spoilt scooter brat delivery girl working for her parents couscous restaurant should come off as far too self consciously modern, too hip for it’s own good and just generally trying too hard. Throw in more scooter culture, a courier mercenary boyfriend, Turkish scooter Mafia and vendettas over recipes and you should have story that simply doesn’t work. But ,thanks to a blasting bit of writing from Wood, Couscous Express succeeds with no small amount of style.

This is a thoroughly modern comic. It’s all about food, hip culture, the on-going battle between young & old, clashing cultures, family and belonging. It’s faintly ridiculous perhaps but something this ridiculously good is allowed to be.

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And once you put this down and start asking for more Brian Wood, check out Channel Zero. It’s a different take on modern culture, almost a No Logo for the comics biz; political thriller and manifesto rolled into one. Well worth a place on your shelf.

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About The Author

Richard Bruton

– Started in comics retail aged 16 at Nostalgia & Comics, Birmingham. Now located in Yorkshire, he’s written for the Forbidden Planet International Blog since 2007. Specialising in UK Comics and All-Ages comics, Richard’s day job in a primary school allowed him to build the best children’s graphic novel library in the country.

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