Oh man we're in for it now...

*Local News Dept: Apparently, God is totally going to kick the shit out of this town near me, because the people voted out the Intelligent Design lovin’ school board; this exciting news arrives from Very Serious Religious Leader Pat Robertson. I have no idea why local citizens don’t seem particularly concerned with all this, or why the newly voted-out incumbents are hustling to distance themselves from it all; don't they know Pat Robertson is always right in matters of faith?

Quoth the Reverend: “God is tolerant and loving, but we can't keep sticking our finger in his eye forever… [i]f they have future problems in Dover, I recommend they call on Charles Darwin. Maybe he can help them.”

HA HA HA HA HAAAAAAAA you see Charles Darwin is a dead human which is different from the loving and tolerant God who’s going to fucking kill us all. Er, I mean them all. Them. I live twenty-five long miles away from that diabolical nest of venial and possibly mortal sins.

Man, didn’t God used wait for orgies of lust and murder or some sort of reckless bacchanal, or maybe a blasphemer or two before rolling out the wrath from on high? Now he’s getting pissed over school board elections? Hey maybe he can help me out with my municipal garbage tax, I mean nobody intelligent designed that, am I right?!

This raises a lot of difficult questions though. I mean, ‘disaster’ - are we talking a tornado, or something more, you know, biblical? If any of the locusts get lost and wind up denting my car, will there be any legal recovery possible? I mean ‘acts of god,’ sure, but with this one we’ve got prior warnings - I think we can prove reckless indifference. Is this going to be a ’struck dead in their homes’ disaster, or a ‘razed to the ground’ deal? I expect real estate values are going to drop and I‘m planning to buy big, so if it’s the latter, will the Most Holy Vengeance follow people who try to flee, or is it an ‘XX square miles’ leveling? Hey - is this going to be like Sodom and Gomorrah?! If I watch local televised coverage, will I transform into a pillar of salt too? I’m trying to watch my cholesterol.

Ok, ok… I’m being a little unfair to dear Mr. Robertson. ‘If they have future problems’ doesn’t mean God is directly going to kill us, just like those nice men with the baseball bats using the same sort of language aren’t directly going to cave in my face if I fail to pay that protection money. I mean, accidents happen, right? Check’s in the mail, fellahs!

*In far more weighty news, apparently the movie rights to Charles Burns' Black Hole have been secured, and Alexandre Aja (of High Tension) is already signed to direct. MTV Films is involved. Quite a flurry af activity...

DMZ #1


This is the new ongoing Vertigo series from writer/artist Brian Wood and artist Riccardo Burchielli (who’s the primary artist - Wood handles the cover and an introductory sequence). Apparently, this issue is but the first part of an initial storyline, though it works pretty well as a stand-alone introductory tale.

I’m actually not going to go too much into the details of the book’s background, since the comic itself doesn’t - you need only know that the US is in the middle of a civil war, with the rebellious Free Army holed up in New Jersey, the US Army dug into Brooklyn/Queens/Long Island, and Manhattan Island (the titular DMZ) stuck between them. Had I not read online interviews with writer Wood, I’d have had no idea that the Free Army is a gathering of anti-government militias taking advantage of a foreign adventurism-addled federal government’s inattentiveness, but it doesn’t really matter at this point for the story. There’ll be plenty of time for world-building later. But it’s already a world that affords the writer an interesting opportunity for dual criticism - there’s the armed and ready forces of Middle America on one side, and a careless, brutal federal government on the other; the options for national self-criticism are, as you can see, quite endless.

It’s a war where no side needs be right for the critique to land, which is fortunate for this initial plot: photo tech intern and child of certain privilege Matthew Roth is landed (courtesy of his string-pulling daddy) a cherry spot on legendary journalist Viktor Ferguson’s televised expedition into the DMZ, where a ceasefire has been holding out for a few days. Expectedly, the crew comes under attack upon arrival, and Roth winds up as sole survivor, where he’s cautiously cared for by a sassy-yet-caring local woman. This introduces him to the realities of civilian life in the war zone, and many a parallel to certain current situations are drawn in big, bold, impossible-to-miss strokes:

You don’t understand what we’re… told over there. I didn’t know so many civilians still lived here… all we hear about is insurgents and stuff.”

That figures. Ignorance wins every time. That’s why your stupid fucking war will never end.”

Eventually, Roth is given the opportunity to be rescued from the island, but not before he becomes an eyewitness to the callous brutality of his own side, and opts to Stand With the People. Keep in mind, the set-up of this book casts differing facets of America as opposing sides, which neatly eliminates the need for sympathizing with an extra-national Other, even implicitly. Here, the enemy is forever Us, as are the good people (“Your sides don‘t mean much around here. Everyone feels like the enemy to us.”), which carries the possibility of smoothing out any rougher allegorical edges in the future, if need be, or adding additional metaphorical shades. After all, wherever the gun is fired here, it will always strike part of America, which can be either ultimately enlightening or consummately nihilistic.

But that’s all possibility, all future. In the present, this is a decent action-tinged thing, with some nicely jagged visuals from Burchielli and some decently staged set-pieces. The characters are broadly-drawn, eminently familiar character types, still stand-ups in a ‘think of the people!’ wartime passion play at the moment, but there’s room for development. It’s not exactly a subtle thing, though I expect persons familiar with Wood’s politically-themed oeuvre won’t arrive expecting meticulously buffed current events positioning. It’s a lot of firepower in both the thrills and the comment department, and the gun could well jam later on. Right now, it’s a good-looking book that’s pretty much exactly what you’d expect; each twist therefore leaves one mainly nodding along, just as the allegorical talking points are dropped out to elicit fist-pumps from the allied and the rolling of eyes from the opposition. It’s like everything is predetermined for the present - we’ll have to hang in for later to see how things develop.