DMZ Vol. 6: Blood in the Game | Graphic Novel Review

Vote and Die
Michael C. Riedlinger

            Brian Wood’s DMZ has been running for three years now, and is still one of the most interesting critiques of American involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan to date. The latest installment, DMZ Vol. 6: Blood in the Game, examines provincial elections held overseas through a lens of hip-hop panache and old-fashioned American dystopianism.

            For those unfamiliar with DMZ, the story is set in New York City, on Manhattan Island in the near future. After years of political disaster, America has erupted in a second Civil War and the opposing sides have come to a stalemate in New York. Manhattan has been declared a demilitarized zone, and all but the most poor have been evacuated. Enter Matty Roth, a journalism intern who finds himself trapped in the DMZ and decides to report on the plight of the people living there. When we look at contemporary places like Fallujah or Kandahar, we have no idea how the people there live or what their feelings are concerning American occupation. DMZ allows us to peek at the other side of the coin, and Blood in the Game really brings that idea home.

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            This volume starts with the warring parties attempting to assert some sort of order in the virtually lawless DMZ. Both have their own candidates for the new provisional government, but the people living in Manhattan have the final say come Election Day. In steps Parco Delgado, life long citizen of the island and leader of what he calls “The Delgado Nation”. Consisting of former gang bangers and thugs, Delgado’s crew are street-hardened, but not hard-hearted. It isn’t long before Matty’s employers start to question his impartiality, and it doesn’t get easier when his mother, a political consultant, flies in to help put Delgado on top of the competition. Though it turns into politics as usual after a sniper tries to take out the home-turf candidate, Delgado’s message is full of the kind populist rhetoric that we fear coming from the Middle East. That message is tempered, however, with tolerance, and in one small move, Wood shows us exactly the kind of leader we need to find among those governments America currently hand-holds.

            Parco Delgado isn’t an impossibility, no more than journalists with a keen sense of morality like Matty Roth are totally imaginary. Brian Wood seems to be positing that, instead of finding a tool that suits our needs or allowing our enemies to do the same, we really ought to look to the people of opposing nations to present leadership for themselves. Only when a person has lived in the midst of adversity can they both empathize with those who also have, and encourage them to heal constructively. Wood also continues to develop his main character in this volume, and Roth realizes what many readers already seem to know. The cub reporter is not an outsider any longer. Between exposing corrupt government contractors like Trustwell (Wood’s stand-in for Halliburton), and seeing both sides of the war effort, Matty, and the readers, can’t afford to sit by impartially. Wood wants us to take sides, both on his work and in real life, and we can see that sitting idly by is inexcusable if we really want a happy and peaceful resolution. Accessible to readers both new and old, Blood in the Game should appeal to anyone with even the most remotely curious political mind.

Final Verdict (out of 5):