Matt's Reviews > Channel Zero

Channel Zero by Brian Wood
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's review
Sep 05, 07

bookshelves: my-graphic-novel-collection
Recommended for: fans of DMZ
Read in January, 2001

For those of you who’ve discovered Brian Wood through his highly acclaimed Vertigo title, DMZ, it’s time to reach into his back catalogue and check out one of his very best works to date.

At the start of the story, special interest groups have bullied the government into passing the Clean Act, effectively killing freedom of speech. Enter Jennie 2.5 – a high tech Cindy Sheehan. Part revolutionary. Part side-show. Jennie sets out to create a pirate television station with the hope of waking up the masses.

If these themes sound familiar to those who have cracked open DMZ, it should be no surprise. Channel Zero is your Brian Wood primer. Threads from this initial work can be seen running throughout his comics. But as opposed to the polished machine that is DMZ, Channel Zero is aggressively rough around the edges. Featuring a gallery of reproducible anti-Clean Act propaganda stickers and flyers, Wood evokes DIY underground ‘zine design and mentality. It’s a nice touch that metaphorically reflects Jennie’s efforts to throw her own wrench into the system.

As far as the storytelling goes, Wood brings together a pastiche of narrative styles that show off his willingness to experiment with the traditional comic book form. In the end, the various narrative elements come together seamlessly to form a cohesive whole. But it’s Wood’s underrated abilities as a draftsman that really make the book tick. Wood’s art is raw, sometimes crude, but always vital. And when the words and art are put together, we see a story about the churn of our attention cycle. How people become stories. How stories are distilled into ideas and how ideas then take on a life of their own.

For long time Brian Wood fans, it’s also fun to note that this is the birthplace of some familiar faces like everyone’s favorite gun-toting couriers, Moustafa and Special.

What was relevant in 1997 is still relevant in 2007 (perhaps even more so, as we begin to wake from our long national slumber.) Censorship isn’t going away. The mechanisms that seek to keep us quiet are becoming more sophisticated, more legislated, and more subtly entrenched in the economic framework of our everyday lives- making this the perfect time to go back and give Channel Zero another read.
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