DMZ Vol. 6: Blood in the Game

Written by Brian Wood
Art by Riccardo Burchielli
144 pages, color
Published by Vertigo/DC Comics

I’m certainly always enjoyed Brian Wood and Riccardo Burchielli’s DMZ, an ongoing series about a journalist in the demilitarized zone of Manhattan where the United States and the Free States’s armies had originally collided. With this new volume, Blood in the Game, I can’t deny that I was initially a little thrown by its contents—perhaps because it seemed to be heading a direction that I wasn’t entirely sure would be as much of an attraction for me. The more I think about this change in the title, though, the more pleased I am with its new route.

Manhattan is still a no man’s land, populated by about 400,000 people caught between the United States and the Free States’s war. Up until now, journalist Matty Roth’s primary purpose has been to report on what’s happening in the DMZ. When the first wartime elections kick in, though, Matty is drawn towards politician Parco Delgado, who claims to be the real voice of the people within the DMZ. Is Matty crossing a line as a journalist by getting too close to his subject? And is Delgado really the best choice to lead the people of the DMZ?

Up until now, I’ve always felt like Wood has been very careful to keep Matty Roth’s journalistic integrity whole. Sure, he’s often felt drawn more to one side or the other at any given moment, but his pieces have always shown a (mostly) lack of bias aside from trying to report exactly what’s really going on inside the DMZ. With Blood in the Game, though, there’s no way around it that Matty has quite firmly chosen a side that he’s getting behind and pushing. When one of his pieces on Delgado gets killed because it’s felt to be too much like a press release, it’s certainly a wake up call to both Matty as well as the reader. And at first, I was less than thrilled with the idea of Roth working for a politician and becoming part of the machine instead of the outsider reporting in. The more I read of Blood in the Game, though, and the more I thought about the book, the more I found myself really appreciating what’s going on here. After all, with Blood in the Game we’re passing the 2 1/2 year mark for the title, and it makes sense that Matty’s been there long enough that he can’t remain an outsider forever. His position can’t remain apart from everyone else in Manhattan forever, and I like the idea that Matty finally throws his weight behind someone who’s affiliated with the people of the DMZ itself, not either of the two sides fighting over this area.

Perhaps more importantly, though, was that Wood doesn’t put Parco Delgado on a pedestal, making him this shining knight that is the savior of everyone within the DMZ. Delgado’s tactics at time are questionable at best, and he’s clearly not afraid to play some dirty pool if it means getting a long-term victory out of the action. And as strange as it sounds, this went a long way towards accepting the character, not only for making him believable but also liking that Matty is jumping on the Delgado Nation bandwagon. Delgado is ultimately as human as everyone else in the comic, and it’s one of the things about DMZ that I’ve always liked.

Burchielli’s art is a slightly cartoonish, exaggerated style that holds a strong internal consistency from one panel to the next. So while people’s long, slightly stretched faces may seem a tiny bit strange if you’ve never seen Burchielli’s art before, it’s a deliberate style that quickly becomes the norm. I think he’s at his best when he’s drawing the DMZ itself, with its semi-deserted and ragged streets. It’s hard to imagine that an artist in Italy is able to completely "get" how to draw Manhattan, in a way that goes beyond just being given basic photo references and verbal advice, but Burchielli really nails its look here. My only real complaint is that Zee’s features seem to be getting a little too exaggerated as of late, to the point that her eyes are starting to miss their irises and pupils, and that’s a look that really should have stayed confined to Rob Liefeld’s old X-Force art.

DMZ Vol. 6: Blood in the Game is a comic that at first I thought was just all right, but upon a re-reading I think it’s one of my favorite volumes to date. Wood and Burchielli are more than ever getting to tell their political fable for our time, and it’s hard to ignore what’s happening in the rest of the world and not see it all reflected here. Blood in the Game feels like a big turning point for DMZ in general, and I’m eagerly awaiting whatever happens next.

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