Catch up time, in a noughties version of the USA a Second Civil War fought between the south-western Free States Army and the sitting U.S.Government came to a halt when mistakes made by U.S. soldiers during the occupation and battle for Manhattan caused the U.S government to negociate a ceasefire between them to the west and the FSA hanging round in New Jersey at the Lincoln Tunnel. This ceasefire caused the Island of Manhattan to become a Demilitarised Zone and the people left trapped inside after a botched evacuation tried to carry on as best they could. Reporter Matty Roth came to the DMZ by accident, but soon brok important stories about abuses going on in there. Then elections were held and helped along by a star struck Matty, the charismatic Parco Delgado was elected governor of Manhattan. Immediately he bought a nuke which one group had hidden away, and when Matty broadcast this to the world things turned bad fast. Matty had jettisoned his journalistic ideals and was running a death squad. Then Parco disappeared as the U.S.army invaded to look for the nuke. Matty was beaten up by soldiers and his attempts to have them killed want badly wrong as fourteen civilians were murdered by his goons instead. Left alone, with not one person willing to take his calls, he wandered out onto the streets only to see a mushroom cloud billowing up from where the U.S. had bombed the defunct nuclear powerstation the nuke was being hidden in. This volume "M.I.A" contains the one-shot "Notes From The Underground" and the four-parter "M.I.A". Now although I said it was my policy to only split volumes when they exceeded seven chapters, "Notes From The Underground's" unique construction means It's the longest I have spent on one issue, I wanted to include a visual sample from every short in it and wrap things up in a conclusion seperately from the "M.I.A" arc.
|Matty ponders his notes.|
NGO: Art by Rebekah Isaacs. In a taxi an excited man in the front finds Matty in the back. He's off the clock, he sometimes comes for a ride with the driver because "sometimes shit just gets so fucking boring round here he comes and hangs out with me". He has one rule in his taxi, "no jounalism".
The excited man fills Matty in on what he is there for, his investors see unlimited potential in providing progressive communication access to the citizens of the DMZ. He hopes they can "liberate the masses through information technology". Matty say their cellphones still work, "the telecoms saw to that.. no cost. It's not like they can send us the bill."
The excited man says his way would shine a light on the people and show them the world that's been passing them by all these years, "we can usher them back into the arms of society... we can free them. Educate them." He wants to set up shop in New York for a new comms network and will donate free access to select Americans. The taxidriver asks "So wait... you hired me to drive you real estate shopping?"
|Touring the DMZ.|
They get out, the first stop on the man's real estate tour. Right now Matty reckons they have less than a minute before a nasty guy calling his soldiers to the roof starts dropping grenades on them, "your future telecommunications HQ is a restricted area". The driver tells him to hurry up with his beer, he has thirty seconds. Then they return to the car and drive the hell away. Matty tells the man "Tell your investors you can't liberate us, educate us, or buy us. You sad dumb tourist. You don't know how lucky you are". End of short story.
MATTY+ZEE: Art by Jim Lee. A single pager showing Matty taking shots of Zee searching through some rubble. The text talks of their history although is dated to before she left him a couple of volumes ago. Matty admits he has a hard time living up to her standards, "I cannot imagine living in this city without her, I cannot imagine this city existing without her". Her leaving him can probably be said to have influenced his bitter spiral into violence in the previous book.
|Zee remains the heart of the DMZ.|
|He put a scarf on it! *sob*|
He tells Matty that "patience and drive" amassed this collection, he loved money but loved art more. Matty points at a Van Gogh and the man says has recovered 60% of MOMA's collection. Matty thinks how there is billions worth here in tha townhouse. The man says he's kept meticulous records "I claim no ownership, just the privilege of caretaker." He needs Matty's help now.
|An unsung hero.|
SNOOZER, THE GHOSTS: Art by Lee Bermejo. It's a single pager about the ethos of the Ghosts of Central park and their mission to save trees and wildlife. Soames told Matty one day that when the dust settles after the war, people will mourn the decimation o the parks and open spaces, the tainted water supplies, the poisoning of the air and destruction of historical spaces, "And, I firmly believe" said Soames "the first question we'll ask is 'Why didn't we do something when we had the chance? Our excuses will ring hollow'".
|Enviromental activism in the DMZ.|
He tells him after some chit-chat that the first year of the war was hardest for them, the rise of the Free States wasn't just the rise of some predestined idea. The second year was better:
Townes: "That was when we started buying mayors. A couple of governors. A couple of FBI field agents, too.... Okay I lied about the agents. Some halfwit under my command shot them. We just used their badges. Opened a lot oof doors for us, literally. Amouries, National Guard bases, banks even".
Matty asks more about the banks and Townes says the first secret is that the FSA is suprer rich like "own-the-country rich". They are so rich they outright bought Chicago. They never made a move on it because the "famously neutral Chicago... is like a sleeper cell". He makes a call and it goes hot, opening up a new front in the war. They have no need for Texas, the power is in the East. They'd love Florida, but in the end won't need Miami when they have New York.
|The leader of the FSA in humble surroundings.|
He tells Matty what he's going to take away from this interview, about the Redneck army who buy cities and governors, assissinate heads of state, field multiple divisions of troops and have brought the most powerful army to its knees. He's had foreign heads of state sit where Matty is right now, "and knew they were looking at someone they can do business with".
|Matty is left with much to mull over.|
KELLY CONNOLLY: Art by Philip Bond. A one-pager of Matty's on-off girlfriend, a fellow reporter who helped him break a big story. Matty's "notes" on her here date to just before she committed suicide in the DMZ.
|The late Kelly Connolly.|
|Wilson and Matty become friends.|
WILSON: Art by Eduardo Risso. A one-pager that tells us under Wilson, Chinatown has not only kept its original character but more-or-less its original boundaries. After a failed assassination attempt he became untouchable, "equal parts kind and cruel, and whatever power he uses to keep the glue of his dominion intact, it's practically invisible to outsiders".
|Wilson, Kingpin of Chinatown.|
|A respected street artist.|
"LOOTED" answers the question of what happened to the cultural treasures of the city. One man who could have lived comfortably elsewhere risked life, limb and spent enormous amounts of cash to preserve as much as he could, for no other reason than because he loved art. Matty is suitably awed by him as am I. He reminds me of a man in the game Fallout 3 (game about people surviving a nuclear bomb ravanged Washington) who wants to keep history alive for the people in his free museum in one of the most successful communities in the Capitol Wasteland. He uses his money and mercenaries to search for relics in museums and the National Archives. In one you find the Declaration of Independence for him. I like to think him and the man in this story would be exist in any place where there was great culture and history to be preserved.
"HEART OF NEW JERSEY" finally fills us in (or does it) as to how the FSA made such great strides as it did against the biggest and best equipped army in the world. There's an interesting dynamic going on between Townes and Matty, how much is bullshittery, will Chicago flip to the FSA at the drop of a hat? Are there four divisions on their way through Canada as they speak? The Free States will be coming back into focus soon enough, maybe we'll find out then. Finally "WILSON'S KITCHEN" gives Matty his first taste, literally of one of the ways Wilson has been able to keep the culture and character of Chinatown alive in the era of the DMZ. WILSON elaborates some more on Matty's feelings about him before they fell out and DECADE LATER shows that while DL might be gone from the DMZ now, he's left a lasting legacy like he wanted. With a line up of superb artists including legends like Jim Lee and Dave Gibbons, this was an excellent celebration of the further flung stories of the DMZ in a landmark issue. Join me in a few days for the rest of this volume: "M.I.A."