Book of Doom: DMZ #12

Sometimes things don’t go quite to plan. For instance, this week I chose DMZ #12 for our little group review. As a standalone issue, it seemed like a decent one for us to jump in and get a first glimpse of a well regarded series that none of us read regularly.

Two problems ensued: First, for the second week in a row, my local shop didn’t stock enough of our planned series (same problem at the other shop in town) and I was left without a book to read. Piss. Second, DMZ #12 is apparently the worst issue of the series to date. But since I didn’t read the damn thing, I’ll leave the comments to my compatriots in doom:

For Doom DeLuise, this was a capper to a bad week:

What a great place to pick this series up and start reading it. What a great issue to bring me entirely up to speed. What a horrible way of doing it.

While reading this issue, I couldn’t help but feel like I was reading the instruction manual to a brand new video game I just bought. Everything I was reading sounded like it had the potential to be really exciting and interesting, but there just isn’t anything beyond that. It’s a scrapbook of sorts, and none of it made me want to keep reading from page to page. It made me want to throw this issue down and get to reading the good stuff. I want to start playing the actual game, for crying out loud. I don’t need to read the instruction manual. I’ve played enough games where I think I’ll be able to handle myself just fine on my own, thanks.

Jim Doom concurred:

I think that was the wrong time to get into a new book.

Having never read DMZ before, I was on the first page when I started thinking “This is something I could really get into.” But then by page 2, I started getting a little bored. And then when the issue truly followed the pacing of a magazine – as opposed to a story – it really lost momentum.

I feel a little bad about disliking this, because unlike my experience with Criminal #1 last week, this really seems like it might be beneficial and interesting to others. The issue was obviously well thought-out and demonstrated plenty of depth. It was just a lot of thought and depth about a situation and setting I didn’t care the least bit about. I know that’s because of my ignorance regarding the series, but I think this might have worked better as some kind of DMZ supplement, like an annual or secret files or any of those other fancy names for a supplemental comic.

Given my perspective (or lack of), I can’t really comment beyond the superficial reactions to the execution, which were definitely thumbs up. I can, however, say that I don’t intend to pick up DMZ next month.

Fin Fang Doom took the issue to task:

Have you ever heard the expression, “every comic is somebody’s first?” Apparently, Brian Wood hasn’t.

DMZ #12 was the first issue of the series I’ve ever read. The only reason I picked it up is because it was Jean-Claude Van Doom’s choice for this week’s Book of Doom. I was happy to try something new. In fact, that’s sort of the main reason I suggested this whole Books of Doom thing in the first place. But since this was my first issue, I was forced to make some assumptions about the book that may or may not be accurate.

Assumption #1: This issue was not a typical DMZ issue. The format of the issue was a big turn-off for me as a new reader. DMZ #12 read as essentially a DMZ sourcebook. I love sourcebooks, don’t get me wrong, but generally the stuff they put in sourcebooks is the more in-depth stuff they just don’t have time to address in the series itself. But as a new reader, I don’t care about the in-depth stuff when I don’t even know about the on-the-surface stuff. I will say that this is probably one of the best sourcebooks I’ve ever read, though. Generally I don’t just sit down and read these things start to finish, but DMZ #12 really had a nice flow to it that actually made me want to go and read the next page. But it didn’t really make me want to go out and get another issue.

Assumption #2: DMZ is set in a New York where the government over-reacted to 9/11. I’m probably off-base on my assumption that 9/11 was the only determining factor in how New York became a de-militarized zone (which is what I’m told DMZ stands for), but it’s the only thing mentioned in the issue. Personally, the inclusion of 9/11 as a major aspect of any work in any medium is a big turn-off. No, I don’t think it’s “too soon.” I just think it’s kind of boring. It’s not hard to imagine a world where the government grossly over-reacted to 9/11, because we already live in a world where the government grossly mis-reacted. With the people we have in the White House right now, it’s not hard to imagine them justifying a military occupation of New York to keep the peace. So I guess I just don’t see the point in reading something like that.

Assumption #3: DMZ is about a reporter’s life in this New York. Honestly I have no ideas what else it’s about. I don’t know if there’s any kind of struggle or if it’s just a “day in the life” kind of thing. I don’t know if there’s a regular cast of characters of if they just come in and out of this reporter’s life. There were so many characters identified by name that it’s hard to tell if any or all of them have shown up or will show up in the series. I gathered there’s probably some sort of gang warfare going on, and maybe some sort of anti-military resistance movement, but I’m really not interested enough to find out.

Assumption #4: New York City itself is an important “character” in DMZ. Obviously the world this reporter lives in must be important or else Wood wouldn’t have spent an entire issue giving us what is essentially a character profile for New York. Wood includes maps of actual streets and actual neighborhoods so the readers know exactly where stuff is happening. There’s one big drawback to that, though: I have no concept of New York as an actual place. I’ve never been there. I don’t know Chinatown from Washington Heights. I don’t know Canal Street from West 18th. I only know New York as a setting for movies, TV shows, comics and whatnot. So the realism that Wood has obvious gone to painstaking lengths to include in DMZ is completely lost on me. And that also means that I don’t really have a sense of how much worse things are in DMZ than in actual New York. DMZ’s got nightclubs; art exhibits; underground musicians; thrift clothing stores; even restaurants. It really doesn’t seem like that bad of a place. But I guess DMZ #12 is supposed to be sort of a tourist guide to DMZ, so they’re not really going to highlight the bad aspects, right?

Since all judgments I’m making on the series are using those four assumptions, there’s a good chance I’m not really giving the series a fair chance. But I guess it’s really up to the creators, not myself, to convince me that DMZ is a series worth reading. And quite frankly this issue just didn’t do it.