The latest “DMZ” arc,”Blood in the Game,” has followed the story of elections in the DMZ and the political machinations surrounding them. The tense arc finally concludes this issue as votes are cast and counted, and the results revealed in spectacular fashion.
During Delgado’s acceptance speech, the tension was palpable. Wood and Burchielli have crafted a sequence that really sucks you into the assembled crowd, waiting to see what Delgado will promise, and whether or not he’ll even make it to the end of his speech alive. The world of “DMZ” has become so well-formed and realistic that it’s possible to predict many plausible outcomes (if only by looking at the headlines) but never possible to correctly guess which of them will come to pass. It’s that fluidity which makes “DMZ” a gripping read, where nothing approaching a status quo has been reached in 34 issues.
It’s strange, if not downright scary, that after being conceived partially as a reaction to the political situation 3 years ago, “DMZ” remains strikingly relevant today. Some of the names and countries are different, but the matters “DMZ” deals with remain visible all over the world — the topic of corrupt, dangerous elections has been particularly close to the news in recent months.
The issue, itself, closes a pivotal chapter in the story of the protagonist, Matty, as his support for Delgado translates into an offer to join him in ruling the DMZ. Readers will immediately recognize this as a clear mistake waiting to happen, but Matty is all-too-pleased with the offer to realize the obvious. It makes for an attention-grabbing lead into the next arc.
Burchielli’s artwork remains strong, and his depiction of the rain-soaked DMZ in this issue deserves specific praise for accurately capturing the apprehensive air permeating the city during the climax to this story. The grimy pencils and muted palette means that every page looks as gritty as Wood’s writing makes it feel. At this point, it’s hard to compare the series to any other comic, and the only appropriate reference point I can come up with is “The Wire”, as the two mix long-form drama with ambiguous, real-world politics without ever attempting to suggest that there are easy answers to the complicated situations depicted. “DMZ” is always enjoyable, but this recent arc has been a definite high point.