J.G. Keely's Reviews > DMZ, Vol. 4: Friendly Fire

DMZ, Vol. 4 by Brian Wood
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's review
Jul 07, 2012

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bookshelves: comics, reviewed
Read in July, 2012

This is the most interesting volume of DMZ so far, because the structure of the story forces Wood out of his standard voice. By choosing to do a Rashomon story (or a Jose Chung's, depending on your specialty), Wood ensures that each character in the story has a different view and different voice, because the whole story is based on the idea that everyone sees events in different ways.

I only wish that he had been differentiating his characters and their points-of-view this much right from the beginning. Even in this story, we only really get differences in tone from the characters our protagonist interviews, not from the rest of the familiar cast, so it makes me worry that once this arc is over, we'll go back to the same flat characters as before: the saintly local nurse, the thug soldiers, the slimy politicians, and other such lackluster depictions.

The fact that wood is trying to depict a conflicted, many-sided issue with no single, easy answer also means that this story has the most conceptual depth in the series. There are some moments here that approach real profundity, though there are also some trite simplifications that undercut the message.

In all, this is the first arc in DMZ that feels like a Vertigo title to me, with nods to complexity and depth, even if things don't quite reach the level of climax earlier authors managed. But then, the early, pioneering authors who transformed comics into a modern, sophisticated art form were coming from a very different place.

Gerber, Moore, Milligan, and Gaiman couldn't look back at a group of proven greats in comics to learn their trade, there was no blueprint for what modern comics could be. They were inventive and revolutionary because they had to be, they had to make things up as they went along.

The new generation of comics authors live in a different world, in a world where comics are already proven as art, and they can search out and see what good comics are supposed to look like. However, I'm not sure this is a good thing, in terms of creativity, because instead of being forced to create something new, to prove themselves, they can just write in imitation of previously successful styles.

I have often said that in order to do something well--to develop a voice in art--requires many varied sources of inspiration. To write like Tolkien, you don't read Tolkien, you have to read and understand what influenced him. To play like Zeppelin, it's not enough to listen to Zeppelin, you have to understand the music they were listening to. If you take one artistic vision and try to recreate it, all you're going to do is dumb it down, because you're not adding anything new into the mix.

Again and again, reading these new authors, I feel this sense that they are taking an easier path, copying the forms of the comic writers who came before them, and it's no wonder that their stories come out lackluster, because they haven't added anything new into the mix to make it their own.

However, if Wood can continue this upswing, continue diversifying characters and viewpoints, working hard to make a plot that is deep instead of one which is straightforward, and learns how to communicate his story and ideas through character action, not talking heads, narration, and 'news stories', then this comic might actually get somewhere.

My Suggested Reading In Comics
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