Frozen Solid Holiday

*Not even trying to think about how long I’ve slept. Today was an odd day - I knew for sure as soon as I saw the camels.

Local #2

Initially I thought this issue was leaning rather hard on municipal aesthetics; you’ve probably heard about the dialogue-free first half of this issue, though that’s not the end of it - there’s several more ‘silent’ pages later on, upping the final sum to very nearly 2/3 of this issue being largely word-free (save for signs and notes and the like, which do draw your attention in the absence of dialogue - sometimes I think there’s a certain conditioning at work among readers, a tiny unconscious suggestion that reading anything more substantive than a traffic sign requires words, so details that might be missed on a ‘talking’ page otherwise jump out). But then I noticed something: upon review, there’s really not as much Minneapolis in this issue as I’d thought. A lot of the action takes place inside Megan’s apartment which, while suitably detailed, is more universal a location than anything. Perhaps this is a means of expanding the book’s appeal beyond the confines of its locations? I don’t know, but I sort of like it - we only seem to see the city as a citizen would, small snatches of background accentuating various events.

As for the events themselves, well, I suppose I’m poisoned by having known at least one girl in my teenage years who actually did let boys she was barely familiar with into her window. I can’t say anything ever went all that wrong with the plan, at least no more wrong than would follow from ‘normal’ teenage interactions. So I guess I inevitably have a less questioning reaction to this issue, following Megan’s largely non-verbal (fitting use of form, there) relationship with a guy who wanders around her apartment while she’s at work, though the two of them hardly ever physically meet (and indeed, never got around to learning one another’s names). A friend at work tells Megan she’s nuts, and writer Brian Wood doesn’t seem all that disagreeing - he remarks in this issue’s essay that this is “not an acceptable sort of relationship to encourage.”

But that’s not really the point of this issue; the point is in fact the same as last issue - it’s self-reliance. Both issues hinge upon Megan learning to make her own decisions; it’s just that this issue is a bit more questioning, since Megan ultimately makes what many people would consider the ‘wrong’ decision. But that’s beside the point; she becomes anxious and depressed when she’s not being true to herself, when she bases her actions on the counsel of others. It’s not a theme that’s always going to work, but this issue does suggest that perhaps there’s a downside to this kind of activity, a downside we necessarily won’t be exposed to until next issue (yeah, yeah, individual stories for individual issues - that doesn’t mean that there’s not going to be evolving concerns that run for several segments of the project). For now, it’s all bull-headed teen romance, and maybe it’ll turn into a nice inversion of last issue’s more melodramatic affirmation of the individual will as a triumphing force.

If nothing else, it’ll probably affirm that Megan has rather shitty taste in guys (I bet last issue’s nameless boyfriend seemed awful exciting at first - actually, that’s just another way this issue reflects the last). There’s some nice visual character work going on too - I like how Megan is usually seen wearing her primary apartment key around her neck (presumably, she puts it away when she’s at work) - I guess she loses things, which might explain the presence of a spare key in such an easy-to-find spot to begin with. And even if the length of that key-chain seems to expand and retract at will in certain panels, artist Ryan Kelly keeps things looking pretty nice. Also included are assorted bits of production art, a guest pin-up (by Brittney Sabo), preview pages for issue #3, and a nice text-based summary of Minneapolis’ history and appeal by one Kat Vapid, with spot illustration by Kelly. Nice batch of stuff.

DMZ #2


Universality is also a concern here, in the week’s second Brian Wood-scripted book, though probably too much so - the content veers into broad enough life during wartime tropes that one begins to wonder when the uniqueness of the book’s premise (which, granted, wouldn’t even be apparent to the reader divorced from the pre-release interviews and the like) will kick in. It’s not painfully familiar, but oddly cozy in its revelations, which I presume is not the intended atmosphere for this work.

This issue finds our stranded protagonist, Matthew Roth, getting a tour of the titular zone, a civilian-packed NYC that’s been ripped to pieces by the US Civil War (Vol. 2). Naturally, Matty discovers that The Media has been misleading people regarding the dire state of the DMZ’s affairs (either through simple ignorance or for propagandist effect), he encounters his first up-close exposure to civilian casualties (created by the Federal Army during Matty’s ‘rescue’), and he becomes moderately enchanted by a pair of lovers whose affection reaches across enemy lines. “When it’s not fucking terrifying around here, it’s kinda cool,” Matty summarizes, eventually slapping together an expose of life in the DMZ that’s (naturally) rejected by The Media, who’d rather he cover the latest adventurous troop movements, which just now happen to be taking them into lower Manhattan. How will Matty react? Similarly to last issue?

The urban landscapes are ably drafted by primary artist Riccardo Burchielli, and Wood’s own inky maps and transitions look pretty good, but at the moment they’re not in the service of particularly compelling material. Setting a story such as this in a familiar place carries the possibility for greater reader identification with characters that actually represent people (albeit arm’s length images on television for many) from a less easily understood position. But this particular chapter, with its walking tour of ruined sights and ruined bodies, perhaps overshoots on familiarity, giving us identifiable things that only reinforce this book’s position among other stories of half-ignorant innocents who suddenly recognize the awful truth about combat’s heavy toll. We thus recognize the gears of storytelling above the affected lives of people, and these gears - we have often seen them turn.