March 21st, 2010


Fables and DMZ

I've been on the lookout for a new on-going comic book. Y: The Last Man is finished, and while Warren Ellis appears to be writing just about everything, much of it's for independents that are taking their time getting collections out. Hellblazer still chugs along, though Vertigo are just as likely to print a collection of dross as they are new material. Buffy Season 8 is fun. But what else is our there? Fables and DMZ have gotten good mentions.

I've read a couple of the Fables volumes, and I'm not hugely impressed. The premise is that all the characters and creatures from fairy tales got expelled from their own lands a long time ago, and have been secretly living in New York ever since. Snow White runs the place, and the Big Bad Wolf (in human form) is the main police enforcer. Volume one is a murder mystery: who killed Snow White's rebellious sister Red Rose? Volume two explains that, actually, it's only the fables who can pass as human that are hiding out in New York; the rest are upstate in "the Farm", an enclave protected by spells to stop humans from stumbling across it. But some of the fables there don't like their enforced seclusion and want to seize power and re-invade their original lands.

So, nice set up, but I've been less than impressed with the stories and the writing. No particular reasons why, it just hasn't grabbed me so far.

On the other hand, Brian Wood's DMZ rocks. With America's forces overstretched by wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, etc, there's no-one to stop the midwest militias from rising and quickly there's another civil war, between the USA and the Free States of America. A few years in, Manhattan island is a demilitarised zone, with half a million inhabitants scratching a living in the bombed out remnants that neither side has managed to hold. Into the middle of this comes Matty Roth, new graduate and Liberty News intern, supposedly assisting on a brief assignment. Things go wrong and he's stranded. But he continues the assignment and becomes the only embedded journalist broadcasting from within the DMZ, reporting on the people there and telling their stories.

I'm four volumes in, and it's great stuff. Very reminiscent of Ellis's Transmetropolitan, full of social commentary and satire and political observation. Blackwater/Xe, terrorism, insurgents, medical problems, friendly fire, etc - all are grist for Wood's mill. Marvellous. Sometimes Matty uncovers conspiracies to manipulate public opinion, sometimes he finds vast corporations making money at peoples' expense, and sometimes he find that, well, it's a war. Shit happens, sometimes, and in a war zone, that's even more true. Sometimes there's no great enemy - it's just being people scared and hungry. Great stuff.