It's a hot summer day in a square, people are buying fresh water when someone drives up on a motorbike loaded with IED's and blows everyone up. Matty was there and narrowly escaped. Liberty News later report it as one of the deadliest suicide bombings in recent weeks, killing 17 civilians, 3 insurgents and the bomber. The water delivery was not sanctioned by the local bosses who claim governance over the Little Italy area it was being delivered too and the bombing was retribution. Now the US Military have resumed aerial reconnaissance despite havinga agreed a no fly zone with the Free States. "Military spokesman declined comment".
|Another day another explosion.|
We return to Matty sitting in the wreckage of the bomb attack. His cell phone rings and in a rage he hurls it away yelling "just leave me the FUCK alone!" And he stays crouched down, hands clasped over his head in distress. Later he calms down realising losing his cool in public was not professional.
Matty: "But sometimes I wish it was enough for me to just bear witness to all this shit, all the death, blood and burned bodies. Sometimes I wish I didn't have to talk so much about it. Be so brave about it. Or worry about what I say when I do talk about it".
He fishes his phone out of the slimey puddle of raw sewage it fell in and returns to his apartment. Liberty News call him and ask if he wants to quit, he's done good work, but that was during a ceasefire, "summer's called 'the killing season' Matty".
So Matty goes outside and a Free States armoured car pulls up and he is snatched up by them, hooded and driven to the Free States base at the Lincoln Tunnel. Once through, his hood is removed and he is welcomed to New Jersey. Then the leader says Matty needs to just listen, "this'll be a bit of a reunion for you, I think". He opens the back of a truck to reveal a shackled Mr. Ferguson, the journalist thought dead in the chopper crash Matty survived in book one. Both are surprised to see each other.
|Matty, meet Viktor Ferguson again.|
Unfortunately this puts him in the path of US Army snipers, however Matty's hands are tied so they hold their fire. But he is met on the ground by soldiers and obviously ailing is taken to an US Army controlled hospital. He wakes up to the unwelcome sight of his father by his bedside. Matty asks where his mom is, she's in Europe. The army want to go over some questions with him.
They want to know why he initiated contact with the insurgent army, Matty says "it just happened". They want to know how certain he was that it was really Ferguson he saw. Matty says he heard him talk and he looked OK. "And then what?" demands his questioner. Matty says he was let go, his phone was trashed so he had to walk back.
|Matty and his Dad.|
They decide Matty is an asset they can use to get Ferguson back, over the protests of Matty's dad. /matty tells his dad "seriously, shut the fuck up.... this sudden fake concern is total bullshit and everyon knows it. I'll do it. Anything to get the fuck out of his sight."
He's supplied with pills to stave of the infection he has been suffering from, a military grade laptop, new phone, cash, batteries, sim cards and a panic button which he can use if his life is in danger or if he gets Mr. Ferguson away from the enemy. The female soldier briefing him turns out to be from his home town, called Eve Linden. When she realises she gives him a hug saying he's a real celebrity. She gives him her private cell number. Then Matty is sent back out with orders to wait for instructions regarding Viktor Ferguson.
Matty: "And just like that, I'm back in. On the one hand, i figure I'm doing good, making an impression, getting my stories out there. Hopefully building a career. On the other, what does it say about them that I'm the best shot they got in bringing Viktor home?"
The United States doesn't negociate with terrorists, but they can through him. He takes his meds and returns to his flat. Back home he starts to reflect on the coincindence of meeting Eve again, "something's not right". He ponders his new kit and thinks "I am so out of my league".
At nine that night Eve phones him saying she persuaded the network to let her be his contact. As theu talk she says that the Free State might be doing it for money, Matty is dubious saying they don't seem to be hurting for equipment. She tells an angry Matty to make sure he takes the full course of drugs. He ends the call then throws all his new gear in the river.
He calls Zee and asks her to come over and talk. She brings medicine for him to flush out his system. He asks if he'll be OK not taking the drugs and she says he's young and fit and "everyone gets the bug in the DMZ". He'll build an immunity to it soon.
Outside there are fireworks celebrating the Fourth of July. The leader of the Free States Army at the Lincoln Tunnel appears out of nowhere and hugs Matty saying he wants to know about his time in the hospital, he also whispers "smart thinking tossing that backpack into the river. You're starting to think like one of us. We'll make an American of you yet".
|Free State Guy comes to enjoy the fireworks.|
Matty calls Eve, and when Viktor calls Matty a prick they take that as proof of life. The terms of his release are that the Free States get three minutes of unedited airtime on Liberty News, with no rebuttal or commentary. 120 million dollars or equivalent in euros and finally a pullback of snipers, skirmishers, scouts and spies, surveillance and any other personnel to Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, "you will effectively cede the enture west side of Manhattan to the FSA".
Eve says she'll pass the demands on, but there is no way they'll be agreed to. Viktor snipes at Matty saying they'll get him for "aiding and abetting". Matty tells him to "fuck off" and leaves in a brooding mood. Back at his flat, Wilson comes to visit. Matty says he took some of his beer, Wilson has plenty, his son was a beer distributor before the war and his Chinatown warehouse has plenty left.
|Pep talk time!|
Matty: "I guess he's a symbol. The symbol is worth it? Maybe. He's kind of an asshole, but he's, like, this icon. I watched him when I was a kid. I have a hard time thinking they're just gonna sacrifice him"
Wilson: "Heh... symbol... You're the symbol now".
Matty says he's probably a traitor, he isn't a real journalist he "just scammed his job". Wilson says people like Ferguson become icons becaus they are given primetime. Wilson says Matty is a throwback to the days when journalists investigated stories, stuck their necks out, not just read off a teleprompter.
Wilson says Viktor got old and scared. Is Matty scared? Matty says he is of dying. But is he scared enough to kiss Liberty New's ass? "Fuck no" says Matty. Wilson says if he stays that way, doing the job on his own terms, "people see and respect that".
People were in denial, "they laughed at the idea of this redneck army in pickup trucks. But the laughing didn't last long". What was left of the National Guard either left them alone and quit or joined up. Soon the Free States Army controlled all the National Guard bases with their Homeland Security funding. "They got bigger and stronger exponentionally as they headed east."
By the time the US army returned from the Middle East, the FSA covered a large part of the USA. The first clash was at Allentown, PA. But everyone was so exhausted and demoralised, most didn't even fight. "They'd had enough fighting". Pilots refused to bomb smalltown America and the Pentagon hadn't had time to wage a propaganda war painting the FSA as traitors. By the time they did, the FSA was closing on the Hudson river and with both sides organised the war started properly.
Matty: "There are no borders or frontlines for this war. It's completely unconventional. Save for the DMZ, this war's fought in bits and pieces all over the country. The Free States are an idea, not a geographic entity. The same asymmetrical warfare that bogged down the US Military overseas is happening here. Five years later and no one knows what the hell anyone really stands for. It's just a survival thing now."
Next day he and Zee eat dinner in a small restaurant. He says he has some questions to ask her. He wants to know why everyone didn't leave Manhattan, it looked like there were plenty of evacuation routes and plenty of warning. Zee says that was how it should have worked "in theory". But the people manning the public transportion just took off. If you had a car or money you were good, "if you were poor, you were fucked."
|Zee and Matty chat over dinner.|
Then Matty gets a phonecall from Eve, who tells him in no way will they agree to the FSA's terms. And worse they aren't going to counter-offer. This enrages Matty who can't believe Viktor is being abandoned like this. She tries to get him to leave the DMZ, "the shit is seriously about to hit the fan".
Then Matty stops talking to her and asks the man running the restaurant to turn up the Liberty News broadcast on the TV. It tells everyone watching that the FSA have Viktor and are also targetting Matty Roth, attacking him and that he only just escaped with his life. They will not give in to terrorists and are praying for Matty and Viktor's safe returns and "swift justice to be applied to those responsible for his capture and detention".
Back on the phone to Eve he rages at her, she says they needed an excuse to attack the FSA all out, "and you and Viktor are it!" Then helicopters arrive, Matty says they made him swallow a tracking device. Zee says it's his fucking phone. The army threaten to open fire in order to rescue Matty, but he and Zee run.
|Black helicopters are always sinister.|
Zee: "Because this is how it works, Matty. I'm an insurgent. The FSA are terrorists. We eat rats and pigeons. We hate America. You name it. They told you all that and you believed it. And now you're dead. Deal with it."
She tells him he should be more worried about the military reaction which will probably kill thousands. He asks what can he do about it? She says this whole thing has everything to do with you, "you don't get that yet?"
She then reassures him he doesn't have a tracking bug in his stomach, he's just paranoid because he's sick, "you have a lot to figure out, and you need a clear head." After she rehydrates him he leaves and mooches through the street ruminating on how weird it is to see himself dead on TV. Then a gang of people attack him. Before they hurt him they get gunned down by a young Chinese-American man and his gang who say Wilson sent them to retrieve him.
|Wilson's family to the rescue.|
Matty realises to confirm he isn't dead he has to talk to the FSA. Wison doesn't think it's a good idea but Matty says he needs to finish the deal, have the FSA make the US an offer they can't refuse. Wilson says Matty is the symbol and Viktor is old news, but if he thinks negociation will work, go for it. He hands Matty an untraceable phone and his grandsons will get him to the west side safely.
Once on his own he realises there is something liberating about being dead. He climb to the top of a tall building and thinks of all the ways he could be killed. He is going to stay and count to 1000, if nothing happens he knows he's not bugged. He isn't so he goes to meet the FSA at the Lincoln Tunnel. He tells the leader there they have to talk about Viktor. Unfortunately someone inside the FSA there is a traitor and let him out.
The leader and Matty get in a vehicle and go chasing after him. He calls Zee and tells them to block the path of the humvee carrying Viktor or he'll get over the bridge into US custody and they'll have no way to prove he's alive. They humvee reaches the blockage, there are also US helicopters escorting it.
|And so ends Viktor's life.|
The US Army start bombing the DMZ. People gather in the subway to take shelter from the missile barrage. Someone asks for Matty Roth, it's a woman who works for an another network. Matty says his exclusive is blown if she is here but there is also a way out of this mess now.
The woman is Kelly Connolly of Independent World News. Zee is suspicious of her wandering into the DMZ and just happens to find him and offer the perfect solution. Matty says his dad loathes IWN, he called them "progressive". But his mum used to watch it before the war. So he thanks Kelly for pissing his dad off.
|Introducing Helen Connolly.|
The bombing stopped and the ground invasion began. But Matty and Kelly set up a laptop and phone to broadcast the photos Matty took of Viktor being alive until the US Army shot him and images of Matty to prove he's alive. He gets ready to transmit. But first he rings Eve and tells her what he's about to broadcast, she says they'll never air it, he says they are not the only network with a journalist in the city. Eve threatens to sue him and whoever airs the reports. "Stop trying to scare me" responds Matty. Eve then says maybe they can cut a deal.
Matty: "You sent me in here a week ago to cut a deal. Now hundreds of people are dead including Viktor, and you're invading the city. No more fucking deals."
Eve loses her shit saying "this is war, Matty. Capital W-A-R and that is way the fuck bigger than you, or me, or Viktor, or any of your grubby little friends in the city". They will win the war and either they help or will be erased.
She keeps threatening him, saying they'll hunt him down and she is wasting her fucking time handling a dead man. Then Kelly speaks to her, and tells her she is "holding in my hands the images that will bring your sleazy network down." And it'll be on the air in a few minutes. Then Colonel Harriman comes on the phone, he wants to know if the images of Viktor have been transmitted yet. When told now, he asks for their terms.
|The laptop is mightier than the tank.|
Matty: "I learned that day that some thing are more powerful when they're kept secret. But in the face of an all-out invasion, I needed to cut that deal... This is all because of me. Just my presence in the DMZ is volatile and affects my friends as much as it affects me. I have a responsibility. To my friends and everyone else. I've been in this city almost a year... and now I finally feel like I'm a part of it"
A few days later things are back to normal in the DMZ. Kelly and Matty chat, Matty says he knew Kelly would have killed to air those photos, but she understands he needed to protect his people and she would have done the same. Kelly says the place is amazing, it doesn't feel like America, it doesn't belong to either side. There is a new tribe and culture and she wonders what will happen to it when the war ends.
Matty says when he first arrived he thought it was a city full of lunatics, that how it looks like from an outsider perspective. But once inside everyone is normal and that's what he wants to show people. "this is a war of extremes, pushing against each other. But the stories lie in the middle. Here in the city. That's the interesting stuff".
This arc then ends with a Liberty News report annoucing the withdrawal of the troops, the fact Matty is still alive and that Viktor isn't. The report then also lays groundwork for a future arc with a story about private firm called "Trustwell" who will be involved in a reconstruction project despite all the complaints against them.
"Zee NYC" is the next story, not drawn by Riccardo Burchielli this time but an adequate Kristian Donaldson. We begin with when Zee first met Matty telling him about what she does in the DMZ, makes visits, holds clinics, she used to be a med student. Then we flash right back to before the war. Zee is catching some sleep in the hospital she works in when she is called Her hair is ordinary and brown and she is in a pink hospital uniform.
She's called to a scene of carnage, there had been a bombing and several people have been brought in suffering grave wounds. She reassures one of the patients but he calls her a "fuckin' bitch" and dies, much to her surprise. Later she sits quietly on the stairs and has a cry.
|Zee the pre-war med student.|
Outside Zee sees a cop beating a man who needs a medical attention, she tries to help the man but the cop threatens her with his gun. He says she must tell him what side she is on or he'll blow her brains out. Reluctantly she says "America" and he says "good girl". Then someone shoots him in the back of his head.
She sits in her apartment and wonders what to do, she is able to make a short phonecall to tell her mum to go upstate. Later there is a huge explosion on one of the bridges out. In hospital she tries to save someone but fails, she can only think to herself "it just never ends, it never ends never ends..."
There is then an address from the US President. He says the US with stay as one, "we've gone to war before to preserve the dream of the Founding Fathers, and we'll go to war again". He says he has given his commanders leave to take whatever steps they must to eradicate the insurgency. "God Bless America. You traitors can go to hell".
Later an evacuation of all staff of the hospital is ordered, and they'll be sent to military hospitals. Zee can't believe it, who will look after those left, they'll never be able to evacuate everyone. As we are shown images of people bundling into train cars and surging across bridges. But over that wew get Zee's thoughts about how she intended to stay, because "I wanted to help".
Zee: "We all did - we were the abandoned, the neglected the left- for-dead resident of the greatest city on the planet. And I was here because I wanted to be here. I felt oddly proud of that."
As the bombing starts she goes out in the streets to find safer shelter. She rode it out in a bodega, one of the people there was Jamal, a third year architecture student at NYU. They spent nine days hiding in that store while the ground war was fought until both sides pulled back for a temporary ceasefire. They expected the war to start again, but the city broke the war's momentum, "the one bit of this country that neither side could claim. This is the DMZ. We live here. We'll never leave it".
|New York Endures|
And apart from issue #12 which is really a recap and guide to the DMZ so far, that brings this volume to a defiant end. This is a very exciting storyline. It shows how much power Matty is starting to wield in the DMZ as new character Wilson drums into his somewhat reluctant head. We get some background on how the war started even though we still know nothing of the Free State's Ideology and we see just what lengths Matty will go to defend the people he's come to love. The Viktor photos could have been a huge journalistic scoop, but would probably sparked an even worse war than the one that was in the offing. The fact Matty with help is able to prevent the DMZ becoming all out warzone using the power and threat of journalism is very inspiring. There is a lot in that storyline about the difference between an old icon like Viktor who doesn't get his hands dirty and Matty who lives the life. Once again the US comes out of this story rather badly, the FSA also remain an unknown quantity, we still don't even know any of their names. Kelly's comments about the DMZ feeling different and not like America anymore is testement in a weird way to the survival instinct and need to form communities human beings have no matter what the circumstances. Zee's story backs this up. She didn't abandon Manhattan, she changed her appearance to match the new person she felt she'd become to match the new city Manhattan was becoming and went about doing what was right over the years the DMZ survived and flourished. Stay tuned for more DMZ in a few days time.