Saturday, 22 April 2017

DMZ Book 5: The Hidden War (#23-28)

"You have not. Made. A. Mistake" - Soames

DMZ is a story of what happens when America is plunged into a second civil war and the two sides come to a halt at Manhattan which has been declared a dmemilitarised zone and both sides observe a ceasefire while the citizens still trapped there after the disasterous evacuation at the start of the war attempt to carry on and survive best they can.  We've been following the story of Matty Roth, a former newbie journalist, he's been embedded in the DMZ for two years making friends and following the big and small stories.  However in this book we step away from him and explore the lives of various DMZ inhabitants, some of whom we have already met, in a series of one-shots called "Decade Later",  "Amina", "Wilson", "Kelly", "Random Fire" and "Soames".  Brian Wood is still the writer but there are a few different artists working here, regular artist Riccardo Burchielli is joined by Danuel Zezeuj and Nathan Fox.  So without further ado let's explore The Hidden War.

DECADE LATER: We start with a grafitti artist known as "Decade Later", or Decade for short with a friend in the DMZ running and avoiding fire to collect a box full of spray paints.  "Before you ask, yeah, it was worth the risk" he thinks. as he sprays the number ten in a circle and arrow.
Decade Later makes his mark.
We then flashback to the start of the war, he is being beaten up by one of the neighbourhood militia for being a "fucking fag artist".  He thinks that he grew up with them and they havn't realised how "stupid and pointless all this is".

Decade: "Whatever happens, even if it's full-on war, the city will still be there when it's over.  You can't kill a city...I don't want to die. I'm not finished yet".

We then flashback to "way before the war".  A young Decade, not known by that handle yet is discussing the train times and the fact he has a plan for them.

He and a fellow artist spray some art, Decade's friend wants to know why he only sprays messages not art.  Decade says he wants people to look out of the window and be affected by his messages on the subconcious level.   He wants to leave behind "some kind of knowledge".  It's not about claiming territory, he wants his messages to make sense in the future.  His friend says he needs a tag, Decade says he'll work on it.

We then return to the present, Decade has painted another message and then goes and attends a "War party".  A group of people have gathered on a rooftop and are boozing away.  A woman says to Decade that she is lucky to be in his presence.  Her older brother worshipped him, "you're one of the few working artists from the old school".  Decade says sometimes he feels like a jackass doing what he does, but she says it matters to her.

Then she exposes a breast and asks for his autograph.  He signs it and they kiss, and she asks him "you got something else to do right now that's as fun as this?"  While they kiss he thinks:

Decade: "I've been living tense for so long.  This fucking war's been wearing me down for so long.  The adrenaline doesm't hit me like it should, or the buzz from creating something new... nothing. She's still young enough to get excited about life and she helps me to remember."

Flashback to before the war and he's on the run but gets caught by the cops and beaten. Present day Decade thinks it was life and the risks you took, "in this for life".
Decade works on his masterpiece.
We then see him before the war working on top of the parked up subway trains, he wanted to leave his mark for the future.  In the present he's on bed with the woman he met at the party. He tells her he painted train roofs, it took years.  It was like a puzzle, painting in squares and matching the numbers up, "eventually the big picture comes together".  He didn't just want to paint a mural on one train but on all the trains.

Later he's accosted by the same militia as before, they tell him he should be grateful to them for keeping the neighbourhood safe for him to draw. They tell him he's getting old and might not ever come around to their way of thinking.  One puts a gun to a bored looking Decade's head then suddenly a U.S. army chopper drops a gas grenade on them and he gets picked up by the soldiers as a suspected militia member.  Naked in a cell he thinks:

Decade: "That was it.  I don't have decades anymore.  And I'll never get a chance to finish it. The project.  The big picture".

He's being choppered out of the DMZ, he has a hood over his head. When he is told they are flying over Queens he pleads to have his hood taken off and the soldier grants his request.
His ultimate artpiece.
He looks down and sees all the trains parked up in the trainyard and painted across them, perfectly lined up, in huge letters is the word "MINE". Decade smiles and thinks to himself, "my decades are over... but this was enough.  Bam".  And that brings his chapter to an end.

AMINA:  Amina is a returning character from Book 3, groomed to be a suicide bomber, Matty saved her but left her bereft of purpose and living aimlessly on the streets. We join her wearing ragged clothes and no shoes in a high rise apartment where a similarly attired woman called Tina with a baby asks "did you get it?"  She says "something happened."
Amina and the King of Soundview.
As she picks glass out of her feet she thinks about how she is going to go back out and do something for the "King of Soundview".  While she was out looking for food the King and his goons confronted her saying he'd never seen her round there before.  He tells her he wants "runners" and if she works she'll eat. Left with no choice she will work for him.

Amina: "The war was miles away.  But living here was no less a battleground.  They fight with fear and intimidation.  The targets are your self-respect, identity and safety.  And they make you complicit, right off the bat.  That's the leverage.  I witness this guy take a life, and he's gotta put me hip deep in his shit".

She's told to take something to a man and he'll give her something in return to be brought back to the King. He tells her "eyes on the door numbers.  Not in the bag, right?"

She thinks back to when she slept with Matty, he told her the only rules she needs to follow are the ones she sets herself.  With one life to live, the "question is how you choose to live it". He told her her destiny was hers to control, "blah blah blah" she thinks bitterly.  He talked for hours like it was all so easy, "like he wasn't every bit as trapped by it as I was".

She disobeys King's orders and looks in the bag to find many bundles of cash.   She is briefly paralysed by her thoughts.  Why her?  Does King want her dead? What's in room 178?  Who's Len?  Is this a test?  Is it all of the above?  Should she take the money and she and Tina buy their way downtown, "grow vegetables on our roof and turn fashionable? See Matty Roth's face everywhere I look?"

Amina: "If it's not the King, it'll be just another man I'm paying protection dues to. Who might decide that, yeah, maybe I'm clean enough. Pure enough.  Or naive enough.  Or maybe not worth enough of anything at all."

She runs to where Tina and the baby is and hands her some of the cash, telling her to take it and hide it.  She won't be coming back, forget her face, forget she existed, "it'll make the lie easier."

She leaves and carries on to where she's been told to go, as she walks she thinks how the DMZ is a great leveller of people, no one cares what colour you are there.  She thinks back to when she was a kid and after the towers fell, "you were your colour... and whatever baggage that came along with it".   She remembers how no one would sit next to her on the subway once travel in New York started up again and she was worried that "any second I must drop dead."
One of many unhappy memories for Amina.
After the war started, the enemy was mostly white and spoke English even class distinctions seemed silly when they were all picking through rubbish for food.  Her and her friends formed communities uptown away from the hot zones. The war was mainly in the south and they avoided bombs coming down on them while they slept.  She remembers when she was about to set off the bomb strapped to her and how Matty stopped her.  Then she remembers seeing Matty kissing Kelly and how used she felt.

Back in the present, she arrives at room 178.  But her contact Len is dead.  A man, Danzinger from Book 3, is waiting there for her who seems to know her, although she doesn't know who he is.  He checks the bag of money and says "Barbaro's really making something of himself since he went A.W.O.L". She asks if he means The King and he tells her yes, the man is a "twisted, degenerate fuck" who was a member of the Free States Army up until a few weeks ago.

Apparently Barbaro saw more opportunities as a wannabe ghetto player who sends waifs to run his errands.  He doesn't know what the money was for, Len had nothing of value on him. He hands Amina a gun, to shoot the King with.  Danzinger was planning to do it, but if he's expecting Amina to come back she may was well do it, "you better not fucking miss."
Danzinger gives Amina her orders.
He tells her it has three bullets but if she tried to shoot him she wouldn't have the ammo to fight her way past the people Danzinger came in with.  "Welcome to the shit Amina" he says, "the war's just come to the Bronx".  Amina can only think she's "complicit.  Hip deep. Expendable enough" and that brings her chapter to an end.

WILSON: Wilson is another familiar character.  An aged Chinese-American mob boss who is good friends with Matty and has provided a useful sounding board for him in prior volumes. It's pouring with rain as Wilson and one of his "grandsons" go and meet with a woman called Sheila Chang who has a baby boy with her, Wilson's son.

She asks for help, but Wilson says they had an agreement, if he helps her he has to help everyone.  He gives them his card and tells her to call him when the boy is twelve, "I can use him then".  He has people positioned around the buildings to watch her and the man who told him about her and the child is to keep his mouth shut.
Wilson is inspired.
We flashback to Chinatown before the war.  Wilson thinks how he was a low level Triad who peaked a decade earlier.  He was eating in a restaurant when the war came to Manhattan and he was caught up in a huge bombing.   This inspired him to shoot his superiors as the bombing showed him what real players do.

Wilson: "The audacity.  The manipulation of the media.  The... bluntness of it all.  The fearlessness. I'm not a gangster.  This war is going to be gangster".

We then see him organising the protection of Chinatown as war officially begins.  He has a message for the other inhabitants of the DMZ.  "No rules. No manifestos.  No websites.  Only one message: leave us alone".  They are not part of New York, no one fights in their name, "you don't represent us. And you'll never take us by force.  You can't own us. But try if you want."

We see an incident where he was caught in a bomb blast while out in the open trading some money.  He was wearing a bullet proof vest which caught all the shrapnel.  He stood and showed he was the "great immortal leader." The bomb should have killed him if he hadn't seen it coming, "heh.  Gangster".
Wilson survives another bombing.
Then we see what he was up to on Day 204 when one hundred and ninety-eight peace protestors were massacred by a squad of U.S. army troops.  He was hosting a banquet and refused to get involved.  Summers pass, winters are endured, he gets richer and finally is able to buy a tank.

Wilson: "I'd say it was the American Dream.  But we were never American.  America's boring anyway.  Boring itself to death."

We then see him sitting on a roof bemoaning how bored of the war he's getting.  Then he spots Matty through his binoculars and is curious as to who he is.  Zee is with him and tells him he should steer clear of Chinatown, and to not try and enter unless he's desperate for a bullet between his eyes.

We close this chapter with Wilson alone thinking how the strongest army will win the war, and while the meek might inherit the earth, "when all of this is said and done... I'm gonna own this city".
Wilson makes his plans.
KELLY:  Kelly Connolly is another returning character. She is a journalist who works for the Independent World News network and hooked up romantically with Matty a few times and helped him break the Trustwell scandal detailed in Book 3.  We open with Matty holding her dead body lying in a pool of blood. He has officially identified her corpse for the benefit of the U.S. soldiers who take her remains away.  One of them says to Matty, "Your friend is already long gone... what that is Mr. Roth, is just another corpse on the street".

We flashback to two days earlier.   She is hiding along with a U.S. soldier while under fire by snipers as they work their way through "the corridor of death".  As we see her out in the field we get Matty's thoughts on her, that she was fearless but not reckless.  She thought out everything first, potential risks explored and assessed.
Kelly Connolly and Matty.
We see her and Matty sleeping together, he thinks "if she was using me I preferred not to know.  Or even think about it, to be honest.  And I shouldn't have even cared if she was.  But I did care".  Back in the field she is taking photos of U.S. army soldiers, then she hears a kid crying.  She takes a photo of him them turns and walks away from him without a word, much to the disgust of the soldiers with her.

Matty narrates that she won an award with that photo and also caught a lot of shit about it to the extent she thought it was the worst mistake of her life.

Matty: "I'm not sure she would have ever forgiven herself for leaving the child there.  But all that came later.  In that moment, she was just doing her job".

She later asks Matty is she is a horrible person?  When he says no, she says "wrong answer" and tells him to "come back tomorrow. Or next week, next month, next year. Whatever".
Objectivity taken too far?
Back in the present, Kelly and the soldiers come under fire from a helicopter, one of the soldiers has his limbs blown off.  But oddly Kelly drops her press badge and camera and walks out into the open.  We don't see her final moment of death but that's when she died.

Flashback to when she came to see Matty at Jamal's camp after breaking the Trustwell story with him.  She and Zee discuss Matty having slept with Amina.

Kelly: "People need to find their intimacies when and where they can, Zee, especially in a place like this.  People are here one day and then they're not.  It's all too uncertain and fleeting to be stubborn.  You just end up sabotaging yourself that way".

Zee is dubious, but Kelly says she believes that completely.  Matty tries talking to her and tells him they don't need each other anymore and walks away.  Matty thinks how he couldn't find the words to say to her it had stopped being about need for him a long time ago.
Kelly commits suicide.
Back in the present, Matty is informed of her death by a co-worker at IWN. She had specific instructions on what was to be done with her after her death.  He tries not to think about why she was so sure she'd die in the DMZ.  Her body is put on a small boat and Matty fires a flare gun into it setting the boat and her body ablaze in a Viking funeral.  The dead is sent onto their journey to the next life, "we live in a world of fire and death and funerals.  But Kelly made us feel alive". End of chapter.

RANDOM FIRE: A new character this time, a club kid called Random Fire, or R.F. for short.  He wakes from a nightmare and as he gets ready for the night he is told it's calm and clear out and his flatmate wishes him good luck.  He runs through the nighttime streets and finds a hatch which leads to an underground nightclub.  Unfortunately he won't be Deejaying tonight as he's been bumped for a celebrity DJ called Grendel who is from Tokyo.
Club kid Random Fire.
He sulks at a table and when a woman comes up to him and asks him what's the matter he says "fuck Grendel". She says he should be careful what he says, Grendel's security is all over the club, that's why there is more white faces than usual, they're Trustwell people.  She recognises them because she used to be Trustwell herself, although she wasn't involved in anything to do with the scandal exposed in book 3.

R.F. asks why she's telling him this and she whispers that she needs a pissed off person to help her tonight.  Trustwell security do one thing and that's maintain the status quo.  R.F. says they keep the lid on "just enough to keep us all jumpy so we'll want you around still".

She says he's right, but she's ex-Trustwell as they purged all the native New Yorkers from the workforce before the reconstruction began, "they didn't want no one getting emotional on the job while they tore the city apart".  But now she needs R.F's help.  She says ask why Grendel is coming here now, when he has that answer add Trustwell to the equation and "hit enter.  See what the answer is."
Random Fire and Ingrid.
So he looks around and finds out Grendel is doing a live webcast worldwide, with a quickly released official bootleg.  "Live from the DMZ.  Webcast.  Promotions.  Album release. Bonus tracks.  Does he not get that people die here?"  He spins because it makes him feel good, the club is an escape from the horror above.  It never crossed his mind to get paid, "this is my family". 

R.F: "But at that moment I felt completely disconected from the rest of the world.  What do that think is going on in this city?  Do they think about it?  Does anyone care?  Do we even make the news anymore?  Or will our struggle be summed up in a tag line on the cover of a CD somewhere?"

He returns to the woman and tells her he's angry and ready to "kill some motherfuckers". She introduces herself as Ingrid, she's seen him spin before and likes him.  She's here to save the club, show respect to the city and screw over her former employers.  R.F. says he's with her, before realising "wait... save the club?"

She tells him that the plan Trustwell have is to attack the club while Grendel is performing live, and having him escape would make him even hotter than he is now.  Outside Trustwell are gathering while Grendel says how cool it all is.  They go to plant something in the bathroom but Ingrid is there pretending to be clueless, catching them off guard she disables them and taks their guns.

R.F. goes up to meet Grendel who hugs him and whispers to him, "I need this, please... please just let me have this".  He asks R.F. to introduce him and R.F. takes to the mike and yells for everyone to get out.  People won't move and tell him to "shut the hell up!  Turn the music back on!"  He pleads with them, and then Ingrid fires on the Trustwell security. 
Ingrid dies taking out Trustwell.
Everyone starts to clear out and a Trustwell security member holds a gun to R.F's head.  But someone holds a gun to his head and tells R.F to get losts.  With the club empty of patrons, a mortally injured Trustwell soldier detonates a grenade.  R.F. turns to see the blast and thinks how he'll remember Ingrid's pride in herself and her city and "fuck anyone who tries to take that away".  End of chapter.

SOAMES:  Our final story is about Soames, who we met in Book 1, an A.W.O.L soldier who has, along with many others, become the ghosts that haunt Central Park. They have covered over the zoo there and created a self sustaining eco-system underthe ground they pulled in over the top.  This is the story of how he came that place.

We start with the revelation that he was a member of the Free States Army, as they have arrived in New Jersey he's been getting an earful of what they believe in.

Soames: "What they believe in is hate. Never been round so many pissed off rednecks in all my life, and that's saying something considering where I come from.  I signed up outta love.  For my country, the land of free men.  Laugh if you want. 'cuz what's not to love".

The Hudson river was full of bodies when they got there, the air was like poison.   The only way was forward, into the belly of the beast.  "But my path was not with these men.  It never was" and we see him jump off the boat he was travelling on and swims to land.  For four days he's unconcious with the disease he picked up from the water and when he wakes up he can't stop vomiting.
Soames escapes via the contaminated river.
He thinks techincally he's a turncoat, but the men back in New Jersey were "ignorant sons of bitches couldn't see past tomorrow". He makes slow progress through the warzone thinking "people live here?" He rises up to take a shot and sees a deer through his scope. A bullet grazes his head and has a vison of masses of deer skeletons which he ends up lying in the middle of.

He wakes up to find a couple of people trying to rob him.  He stands and finds a flyer aimed at Free Staters, with instructions on how to defect to the USA.  "I didn't think I'd need a goddamn ticket to get in" he thinks.

Soames: "What was I even doing?  I felt like I was drifting... not only was I in a land between nations, but that I was in a certain state of being, trapped between life and death".

He is jumped by some militia who asks who he is, "a friend!"  They try and shoot him anyway, but are out of ammo and run away. "Why do I gotta belong to one side or the other?" he thinks. He spots some birds and thinks they have the right idea flying above the mess.  He keeps forging on towards Brooklyn wondering if it'll be any better, he left the Free States to be "rid of ignorants, polluters and murderers".  Will the USA be any different?

He comes face to face with a U.S. army patrol who tell him to lay his weapon on the ground when suddenly a herd of deer come running past, "hahaha beautiful!" says Soames.  The soldiers tell him to come to them, but a joyful Soames says "no thanks! I'm good! I'm staying here" and he turns away and walks with the deer, bringing his chapter and this volume to a close.
Soames is inpired to take a third option.
Moving the focus away from Matty for a while was an excellent idea, although inevitably we get to see how interacting with him changed things for Amina, still trapped in terrible choices and Kelly, a guilt ridden deathseeker who wouldn't let love get in the way of bringing her life to an end on her own terms.  It's also interesting seeing the backstory of various characters and how the war affected them, from Decade finding a way to make his mark in spectacular fashion and Wilson using the giddy atmosphere kicked up by the outbreak of war to kill his superiors and take control of Chinatown where he has made a great success of keeping the place safe for his people despite his somewhat questionable methods.  R.F's story shows Trustwell is still up to no good in the DMZ, resulting in the destruction of a place where people went to avoid that kind of static.  Probably the most touching story to me is Soame's as he realises almost right away he made a mistake joining the FSA and has a spiritual experience with the animals of the DMZ that gave him a firm purpose in life away from either side of the war. Amina's tale is probably the saddest, no matter what she tries to do she can never catch a break and her past with Trustwell catches up with her in the form of Danzingers ultimatum.  Still she has enough kindness left in her to risk her life giving her friend money for a chance at a better life.  As ever the writing is sharp, perceptive and humane and the art superb, Danuel Zezelj's work on Wilson's story which is almost chiascuro-like is especially worthy of praise. We'll be back with Matty again in the next volume in a few days time.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

DMZ Book 4: Friendly Fire (#18-22)

"This war doesn't even have a name.  Did you ever realise that?" - Sergeant Nunez

Time for more DMZ, a comic set in a version of the noughties where an isolationist, let's say "America First", populist movement sprang up in the American midwest.  They were disillusioned by the way the government was ignoring the people at home for various wars it had going on in the Middle East and declared their own government based in Montana, now known as the "Free States".  This immediately brought them into conflict with the US government and a second civil war soon broke out, a total fantasy of course but go with it.  With many of their soldiers still serving oversees and having never had to fight a war with people who looked just like them, the US was pushed right back to New York. Manhattan was partially evacuated but around 400,000 civilians remained trapped as the bridges, roads and tunnels were sealed off. Fighting between both sides took place there up until what is known as the "Day 204 Massacre" occured, which is what we will be finding out about today as embedded and independent journalist Matty Roth is hired by old station Liberty News to cover the story of the people involved and affected by that terrible event, the soldiers involved are going on trial, and we'll see how it was this event most of all that helped turn Manhattan into the DMZ and force a stalemate there between the US and the Free States.

Matty walks through the U.S government checkpoint to some hostility, "the prodigal son returns" he thinks to himself. Once inside the Liberty News building he bumps into his father who sits on the board of Liberty News.  Matty tells him he won't pull his punches, his dad says he doesn't want him to. "The eyes of the world are on this tribunal, and it has to be transparent and fair" he says.  Matty is then left in an interrogation room with Private First Class Stevens.  Stevens ask if Matty will get him on the six o'clock news, Matty says maybe but right now he wants to listen, "where're you from Stevens?"
Matty meets PFC Stevens.
Stevens tells him he joined up at the start of the war, we see him attending a party and huffing chemicals at his hometown in South Dakota, he'd been arrested and given the option of 18 months in jail or joining the U.S. army.   He figured it was safer to be deployed in some police action in Africa than face the prison showers.

Stevens: "And the idea of a full blown war here, in this country? Even with those militia freaks recruiting anyone they could, there was just no way it could happen... someone would stop it before it got too far.  The lies lies lies we tell ourselves".

After six months of bootcamp he finds himself deployed in Brooklyn, New York.  It's chaos, nowhere to hide, no idea who was firing, what they looked like, the maps were "shit" and everywhere looked the same.  "What the fuck kind of war is that?"

In the initial fighting they droves the Free States back to New Jersey, "it felt good, like we were winning".  The calm lasted a month then fighting started up again, but it was different then.  The Free Staters blended in with the population striking behind human cover.   Some said it was the population rising up against them, or some third enemy joining in, "we were on the fast track to something horrible.  But at the time we couldn't see it coming".
Stevens' squad faces the peace march.
One rainy day his squad was holed up waiting, "we'd sit around until something happened".  And something did happen.  A large group of Manhattan citizens all wearing rain ponchos silently marching, "it was the most goddamn spookiest thing I'd ever seen".  Stevens had the bug and began to see things, blood running in a lake, pooling round his feet.

Stevens: "I couldn't think, I couldn't speak, I couldn't tell the others what I was seeing.  All I could do was watch, helpless."

He staggered fowards to reach for one of the marchers and the person turned, reaching inside their poncho and Stevens's sergeant yelled "gun!" and opened fire on the marchers.  We return to the present and Stevens is silent.  Matty brings the interveiw to a close for now. Matty asks him if there is anything he can do for him, "probably nothing" says Stevens sadly, "but thanks for trying".
A just like that, a war crime happened.
Matty leaves and thinks about what happened. On day 204 of the war, U.S soldiers gunned down and killed one hundred and ninety eight peace protestors.  This resulted in the U.S. government quitting Manhattan and entering into ceasefire talks with the Free States, "that's how much moral high ground was lost that day". 

The tribunal was opened three years later, and just the soldiers.  It's always been maintained that the sergeant saw a weapon being pulled and ordered his squad to open fire. Stevens is the only soldier who has stepped forwards and challenge the established defence, "to reopen the most painful wound of the war".

Next day Matty returns to talk Stevens again and his face is bruised and battered, but he doesn't want to talk about it. They continue on with the interview, Matty thinks "if he talks or doesn't talk... he's probably facing the death penalty either way".  Back on the day of the massacre, they returned to base and were debriefed then returned to active duty as if nothing happened.

Sergeant Nunez checked their ammo and Stevens was the only one who didn't fire a round so was immediately suspect.  He was removed from the unit and reassigned.  He tells Matty he replayed every moment of that day, if there was anything that justified the order to fire, "I always come up zero".  When the criminal investigation was opened, Nunez sent his buddies to beat Stevens to "make sure I remembered that day correctly.  Precisely".  But this made him think finally "fuck Nunez".

Day 204 wasn't a bad day anymore, "it's symbol of a broken county and a discredited military.  Lost trust.  Unhealed wounds". It meant the U.S. army would never be welcome back in the city.  The war would never end.  Who the fuck was he compared to that?  Just a burnout-turned-private first class "and I had no right to anything anymore".

Sergeant Nunez comes to say his piece.
Matty mulls this over and Stevens is taken away to be replaced with Sergeant Nunez.  He thanks Matty for the Trustwell thing, so he guesses he can spare Matty a few minutes "you know, for your little bullshit witch hunt investigation".

He tells Matty that he was born and raised in New York, "so when the Free States arrived I took it pretty fucking personal".  He was out in Iraq when war broke out, he was transferred back home when he'd "killed enough ragheads".

Nunez: "I've been to Haiti, I've been to Somalia, I've been to Afghanistan, Pakistan... and three tours in Iraq.  But this is my war.  I was born for this shit... You'd have to kill me to get me away from it".

He recalls the day of the march, he tells Matty he doesn't give a fuck about what we know now.  What matters is "what's going on right then".  He held his fire as he discussed with the rest of the men who they were.  Then he saw one of the protestors pull a gun and gave the order to open fire.
Nunez, not the most sympathetic of characters.
Afterwards, he told Stevens to start picking up shell casing and told him there was a gun, "are you crying Stevens?"  Later they went back to base and everyone backed him up about seeing a gun.  They were cleared and sent back to active duty.  Nunez says it was the start of the war, they barely knew who and where the enemy was and orders were kept simple "to allow for a broad application".

Nunez: "It was an armed mob in a warzone with unmistakable hostile intent.  What the fuck do you want from me, huh? You gave us the tools... get out of the fucking way and let us do our job."

Later Matty thinks that Nunez stuck to the script he'd heard many times, he could have recited it himself.  But Nunez truly thinks he did the right thing.  He's trying to be objective, but it's been debated over and over, "most of us have already made up our minds".

Matty goes to leave the U.S. outpost and sees on the TV that the trial testimony will be reached the next day and the verdict by the end of the week, "what's the fucking rush?" he says.  As a boat takes him back to the DMZ he reflects that Zee has told him it's tensing up as people there expect the worst.   He is now going to interview the people left behind.  Survivors and the friends and family of people killed.

Zee takes Matty to where it happened, he asks why there is no marker.  Zee says metalworkers made a plaque but soldiers stole it.  Anyway, everyone knows it happened there.  She asks him if the kid Stevens did it, "I honestly don't know" he thinks. Technically he's guilty, but can he be blamed for his role in the massacre?  Zee takes him to meet Dina, a survivor of that day.
Dina, one of the peace marchers.
Zee introduces her as a peace protestor, but she says "I was a fool in a crowd of fools.  I was feeling half my age that day.  I was feeling invulnerable". She has a scarred face  because by the time the bullets reached her they gas slowed considerably and Zee patched her up.  She asks Matty to put his journalistic objectivity aside, "the people who did this... don't you think they should die?"

Later he is having a meal with his friend Wilson and his grandsons.  Wilson says it's none of their business, the war is not their war.  "We sit, we wait.  We stay alive.  We position ourselves for end of war.  Can't last forever, you know... someone gotta inherit what's left, right?"  He declares himself the future king of New York.  Matty laughs while thinking "Ah... he's not kidding is he?"  As he sits outside with Wilson, drunk, he wonders why those who ordered the patrol aren't on trial. Then he throws up.

Next day he speaks to the leader of a right-wing militia group called The Nation of Fearghus. The leader says he lost brothers that day, Matty asks why members would join.  Turns out it was the leaders actual brothers, "the stupid little fuckers" says the leader bitterly.  The Free States don't respond to Matty's request for an interview.

Matty then goes to Soho to speak with the ex-U.S, army gunner living in self-imposed exile.  He says day 204 was the "day America died".  With public support "down the crapper" the U.S. never recovered.  The message was that the U.S. kills its own which helped the FSA propaganda, even though this is a civil war so all they are doing is killing their own. With a show trial and a few heads on the chopping block, a sense of closure and a fresh round of regret from the brass, it'll go no higher than Nunez. "It's become a truism of modern American warfare" he says, "you fix old wounds with new ones".
Zee has no answers for Matty.
Later Matty tells Zee that he doesn't know a "single fucking thing more than I did yesterday.  Except that everything about this is still shit".   Zee says she was one of the first people on the scene and has had years to think about it.  She says she has about as much to show for it as Matty does.  He says there has to be answers.

Zee: "Does there?  What if it's just one of those horrible thing that happen in a war?  Wouldn't that be answer enough?  Why does day 204 get to be different from all the other times innocent people have been killed in this war? Or any war?"

Matty says this is different.  Why though, asks Zee.  When Matty is left alone he thinks that it's because it was when the war changed.  It put the U.S. on the defensive and gave the FSA a chance of maybe taking the country.  It created hundreds of survivors and put a dozen shell shocked soldiers in front of the TV cameras and called them murderers. It swayed public opinion around the globe and created funds for insurgents and funding for opposition groups. 

And no one is asking who the soldiers are and why it happened, no one is digging deeper.  Soldiers did it and will be punished, "doesn't everyone deserve better than that?"  The tribunal is hearing the final arguments, the city is holding its breath, what will happen after the verdict is announced?

The next day Matty is woken by a phonecall from Liberty summoning him to the Manhattan Bridge checkpoint. There he is met by a U.S, army general who tells him, "I thought I'd clear up all the bullshit for you, once and for all." He drops a bullet casing in Matty's hand which is from the massacre.  He tells Matty he can keep it, he has a couple of dozen. He tells Matty it's just a bullet casing, the city is carpeted in them, this one is no more special than others.  Matty says "that's not true. I wouldn't be talking to you if it was."
Matty meets one of the higher ups.
Matty says he's taping it, the general says he's being very careful about what he says.   He then asks if he knows what asymetrical warfare is? 

General: "It's when the small guy breaks the rules so he can try and kill the big guy.  Pretend for a moment that you're the big guy.  What do you do about it?  We had plans and scenarios on the books for just about anything you can think of.  Except this war".

But war is what they do, so they deployed the troops and maintained the moral high ground, "the enemy was scum.  White trash. We just had to show the world that".

He says that they'd been fighting trash all over the world, but trash that spoke American? "Even the best of the best has trouble with that" he tells Matty.   But they figured it was only a one hundred and fifty years since the last civil war, they'd remember.   On Day 204 most squads in the city had been out of contact for hours and days, "communications infrastructure had taken a hit".  They had soldiers reporting in from payphones, you can't jam a landline.
Pretty awful being a soldier in Manhattan really.
They had to trust in the men, trust the squads to complete their patrols, trust the training, trust the men to do their jobs. Did they do their jobs asks Matty?  "Yes" says the general.  Matty asks him if he'd accept or even order another Day 204?  "I'd have to" says the general.

General: "Day 204 was a bad call. But you have to be ready to live with a bad call if only for all the other times when you get it right. We train these men to follow procedure.  To do thi shit by the book.  Over and over again.  We don't train them to second-guess".

Then suddenly a soldier comes to the APC the general and Matty are in, while Matty gets a phonecall from Zee.  Turns out the general was distracting Matty while the tribunal announced the results, which was guilty and dishonourable discharges for the men involved as punishment.

As the U.S, soldiers retreat from the checkpoint while coming under fire, Matty races back to where a crowd in an ugly mood has gathered.  He thinks about how the citizens of the DMZ deserved justice, but they got nothing. "The soldiers take the fall and get to go back home.  And the DMZ keeps on bleeding".

The final chapter begins with the DMZ full of rioting. Matty and Zee are out on the streets as Matty realises the tension he's always felt in the DMZ was building to this day,  "I didn't recognise the place anymore.  Or the people".  A U.S. army patrol trapped in the DMZ is murdered by the Nation of Fearghus and the pictures emailed to Liberty News. it reports that the death toll resulting from the riots will skyrocket and the U.S. military is helpless to intervene.
Matty and Zee finally bond romantically.
Hiding out in a deserted restaurant, Matty is patching up a wounded Zee has recieved to the back of her head.  As he does so he thinks on how his story was "fucking pointless" now with the verdict being read so early, "but could anything I learned have made a difference?"  Was there some great conspiracy, or was it just everyone's word against the others?

Stevens gave compelling evidence including the planting of a weapon and picking up of shell casings, Stevens with multiple convictions for possession, substance abuse and theft on his record.  Or Nunez, telling him how they were confronted and outnumbered by an unknown mob, a weapon pulled on them and the righteous order to fire.  Nunez, a decorated soldier who risked his life hundreds of times in the service of his country.  Stevens, who suffered abuse on a daily basis because he wanted to tell the truth.  Nunez, who racked up an impressive body count over the years.

Nunez's squad backs him up as does the military leadership.  The residents of the DMZ see things differently although they have no love for Stevens either.

Matty: "Are they right?  Is the warrior culture created by the United States government to blame? Is sending roving packs of young soldiers out into a civilian area with shitty training and no intel and expecting results a defensible act? Is it intentional?  Or is this world so fucked up that no one has a handle on what they're doing anymore?"

As he reflects some more we see him and Zee kissing as the DMZ burns.  Next day Matty is writing the story on his laptop while Zee tells him she has to be out there to see what she can do to help.  He joins her and once outside she says Dina texted her to tell her to get over to The Bowery.

They get there and see a crowd has gathered and a helicopter is hovering overhead.  Zee says to Matty, "I think something really fucking bad is about to happen".  Then a man with his hand tied behind his back is tossed out by a man who yells "you want him, you got him!"  It's Stevens.  And when the crowd realise who he is, they start beating him.  Matty and Zee fight their way to him and get the crowd to stop, but it's too late, Stevens is dead.  Zee look around and sees Dina standing there with blood spattered on her face.

Matty sheds a tear as he thinks about Stevens, "a dumb kid from South Dakota who had nothing to offer anyone but his life.  And we were more than happy to take it".  He called his mother, finding out his first name was Chris, and wasn't able to lie and say he hadn't suffered.  He emailed her his finished story, "if Liberty News or the military want it, they'll have to go ask the mother of the soldier they murdered".
There are no happy endi... you know the rest.
Lying in bed with Zee we finish the story with Matty's reflections that with Stevens's death a bit of poison bled out, "everything felt sunnier, somehow.  Happier" He decides no more working for networks, no more working for a paycheck.  He wants to do right by the city, the armies and corporations and politicians "can go fuck themselves for awhile".  And the story ends with the image of Stevens standing over the New York skyline.

Another depressing story from the DMZ, but adds in some vital backstory to the war including how hard it is to effectively war against your own people and the problems faced by the modern U.S. soldier attempting to take on a well armed militia army in a warzone filled with the people you're ostensibly supposed to be fighting for.  It's interesting that in this story the Free States don't actually appear, because this was entirely about a U.S. military fuck up even though it was fear of the FSA that caused it. Matty's search for the truth and his feeling that someone higher up should be held accountable seems from the point of view of a cynic to be somewhat naive.  There never was going to be a wider investigation into the culture that produced both wet-behind-the-ears new meat like Stevens nor hardened career soldiers like Nunez. Really his investigation was a fig leaf covering the fact the trial was pretty much a forgone conclusion, a sop to the residents of the DMZ in an attempt to prevent violence erupting when the verdicts were announced.  And in the end Matty didn't even really matter except to us the reader.  The citizens of the DMZ don't get let off either with the beating to death of Stevens without whom the trial would never have come about, and yet showing that the comic operates in the greyest of grey areas, Matty admits that Stevens's death lanced a boil that had been festering away in the DMZ since the event occured.  Superb writing as ever from Brian Wood, backed up with fantastic art by Riccardo Burchielli, Nathan Fox and Kristian Donaldson.

Friday, 14 April 2017

DMZ Book 3: Public Works (#13-17)

"It had been awhile since I was a nobody" - Matty Roth

A quick recap of the premise behind DMZ.  At some unspecified time in the mid-noughties a protest movement arose in South West USA calling themselves the "Free States".  The installed their own government in Montana and began working their way east while a unprepared US goverment scrambled to get their troops back from the Middle East to fight them.  The Free States Army made it to New Jersey and after a disasterous evacuation, around 400,000 people were left stranded in the island of Manhattan.  The Free States Army (FSA) and the US Army clashed there, before both withdrawing in a sulky ceasefire leaving the FSA on the East side and the US on the west and a Demilitarised Zone in the middle where the inhabitants make the best of things despite being under constant fear of war breaking out again, which it nearly did in Book 2.  Journalist Matty Roth has become something of a spokesman for the DMZ, now filing his stories to anyone who'll take them rather than just Liberty News. In this book we're going to see some undercover journalism from him as he joins the company Trustwell Security, a firm who has won a lucrative contract to rebuild Manhattan, but Matty has suspicions that something nefarious is going on and he's going to find out what, no matter how far he has to go.  So without further ado, "Public Works".

The story begins with a news report over images of Matty getting ready for his new job at Trustwell Inc.  We are told the U.N has peacekeepers in the DMZ, who traded small arms fire with Trustwell's security forces.

News Report: "No casualties were reported, but this most recent incident further complicates the already uneasy situation both groups find themselves in... providing security for the reconstruction, but answering to different authorities with very different mandates".

Trustwell are under contract from the US Military to repair and reconstruct "select and symbolic reconstruction projects in Manhattan".  The U.N are there to monitor Trustwell after complaints involving corrupt business practices and excessive violence.
Trustwell Security at Ground Zero.
Matty boards a Trustwell bus while it's pelted with rocks.  The news report continues that this is a hearts and minds operation to gain support for the U.S from the citizens of the DMZ and that only time with tell if the Trustwell and U.N ceasefire will last.  Matty's bus takes him inside a very secure building site at Ground Zero where the Twin Towers fell and he disembarks.

Scribbled on his hand is the name "Naeir".  He looks for him and finds him, a man with a bomb who yells "Allahu Akbar! God is the greatest!" before detonating it.  The symbolism of a suicide bomber at Ground Zero was not lost on people.  Matty thinks to himself, "Public opnion for the war spiked up a few more points, and there was much rejoicing.  I'm only two weeks into this. How jaded am I?"

They got the shit beaten out of them until the U.N forces showed up and processed them under Article 3. Naeir was just a contact, a way to get in deeper, "clearly there was a little more to him than that".  He gives a fake name, he was going to be a nobody for the duration, "it sucked".

As he works cleaning, he thinks about why he is here.  Trustwell is crooked and everyone knows it, but they've survived countless scandals, investigations, whistle-blowers and left-wing documentaries, "they've been making money from conflict since Kabul and Baghdad".  He ponders how he can break them wide open when they have all the right friends in all the right places.  After two weeks he was still on the outside, "I needed a way in".
Matty ponders his next move.
We then flashback to two weeks ago. Wilson his old Chinese-American friend and his "grandsons" are looking after him.  Matty finally realised Wilson was a crime boss and his grandsons, his private army.  He's gone off the grid since his IWN network contact Kelly Connolly sent him intel via a courior, Liberty News had him spooked.  But he won't hide forever, "the best insurance is fame, visibility, my name and face out there".

Kelly herself came to visit him and offered him a way inside Trustwell if he grants IWN the story exclusive.  They carry on the discussion post-coitally, she informs him they take in labour off the streets, she can give him a fake travel pass, where to go, how to look.  However he'll be cut-off for the duration.  Housed, de-bugged and watched constantly.  She'll give him her phone number as a fail-safe "and I'll send people to pull you out".   He agrees to do it and we rejoin him in the present, schlepping round in scummy water.

He notices two of the workers silent plant a bomb on the boat outside the barracks.  Later when they are all eating and the boat is outside Trustwell HQ, one of them reveals a small detonator switch hidden in his food and sets the bomb off.

Matty: "I knew that was a bomb and I knew that was the detonator and I let them go ahead and do it.  It was easy.  And I felt fucking horrible that I really didn't care so much."

We then get another news report, several terrorist attacks took place that night on various parts of the Trustwell infrastructure.   Martial law has been extended while the U.N tries to keep the peace.   However the DMZ residents defie this restriction  and take to the street to protect Trustwell's human rights abuses.

Trustwell refuse to answer those criticism and call the terrorist attacks "cowardly".   Over an image of someone being tortured we are told Trustwell "report no leads or suspects in custody".  Work has been halted at Ground Zero and have focused on the Empire State Building which is a sensitive site for New Yorkers and the "presence of Trustwell there is an emotional trigger".  But Trustwell aren't backing down.
Join up, get sexy ladies on tap!
In Matty's room, an attractive woman comes walking in much to his confusion.  Then suddenly the men who planted the bomb earlier appear.  Because he didn't report them over the bomb they are going to allow him to join their group.  They know a way to make money inside of Trustwell and all he has to do is say yes.

Matty: "Just like that.  One minute I'm on the outside, the next part of a group.  A crew.  A brotherhood.  A cell.  Perfect."

The next chapter begins with two U.N soldiers being gunned down in the street, then we return to Matty as he ruminates on being part of a team.   He thinks about how he's been a loner for so long that he'd forgotten the sense of belonging and security being part of a group gives you, "especially in a place like the DMZ."

Then one day he's given a rolled up bunch of dollars by the leader.  It was because one of them did a "job" earlier today and everyone gets to share in the spoils, "consider it a down payment on your loyalty and silence".  Another of the gives Matty two thumbs up saying it makes him "officially one of us".

Matty: "What it made me was officially complicit with a terrorist cell.  But I took it anyway".

One night he thinks about the phone hidden under his pillow and how much he wants to call Kelly and have her get him just to see her again.

He thinks about having no name here, no identity, his reason for being there hidden under "so many layers of deception and cover story it was hard to remember it."  He repeats "My name is Matty Roth" a hundred times before falling asleep, every night.   As he sleeps, we hear another story about a bomb going off near a New York landmark and the U.N forces weariness in keeping the peace between Trustwell and the civilians of the DMZ.

Next day there is an attack on the bus Matty is on and he takes a rifle butt to the head after escaping from it.  He wakes up naked, tied to a chair in a freezing room.  He has cold water splashed all over him and a man standing before him asks him, "who's your contact?".  When Matty refuses to answer the man says Matty's I.D is fake and his name belongs to someone who died six months ago and they have his cellphone.  The cold will kill Matty in less than an hour, so who are his friends, who are his contacts?
Torture time.
The man drags him into another room and hold Matty's head under the water in a pool there. Matty still won't talk so over several days he's blasted with cold, heat and loud music that makes his ears bleed.   And he's asked the same questions over and over.  But he just thinks of Zee and all the crap she's suffered through and "what would she say to me if I folded the minute some guy started getting tough with me?"

Finally, weak and exhausted, the masked men drag him out of his cell and force him to kneel and hold a gun to his head.  "I was so wrong" he thinks.  And he gabbles about the crew of men he joined and being paid by them but not having done anything himself and that's all he knows and please not shoot him. The two men both burst out laughing.

They take their masks off and reveal themselves to be his crew, the ones he just ratted out.  "You passed the test" says one of them and now they will answer the very confused Matty's questions.  We then cut to Matty in a luxurious bedroom, thinking that "I told them what they wanted to know, but I kept Matty Roth a secret".  The whole thing was a test he passed with flying colours, some are willing to die to keep a secret or follow an order, but Matty is someone whose loyalty can be bought with money, "you're no fanatic right?  You're a businessman".
He's being rewarded, nice room, shower, food, Kelly's phone back and a hot woman to sleep with... Next morning Matty wakes and is greeted by the sight of Amina, the hot woman, being strapped with explosives.  She is smiling tearfully. Matty is then told he is to take her to her destination "where you will ensure she is able to carry out her mission.  From a safe distance of course. Return to me and I will place ten thousand dollars into your hand.  So we can do business".

Amina tries to make small talk with Matty, then says she thinks he doesn't like her and that sleeping together was a mistake.  Matty says it wasn't, but before he can say more it's time for them to go.  Elsewhere in the DMZ the U.N are holding a press conference.   The are talking about the upsurge in violence and that Trustwell are doing a "superb job" supporting them.  This conference is being broadcast live to "show everyone watching that reconstruction projects... are the path to peace.  Not a catalyst for violence".  And the U.S government are fully behind them.

Then a Trustwell spokesman steps up and says it's an "honour to rebuild some of America's historical treasures". This will help the country heal, they also not tolerate violence towards them and the U.N forces supporting them.   Meanwhile Matty is driving with Amina and another of his cell, and putting the picture together in his head.

Matty: "I had stumbled right into the story, except it was turning out to be ten times bigger than what I thought.  And a hundred times harder".

Back at the press conference the U.N spokesman is defending Trustwell from accusations of corruption and affirming they have the full confidence of the President.

Back with Matty, he is told that if Amina fails to detonate herself, Matty must use the trigger to do it himself,  "we have people watching you.  They also have a trigger.  So no funny business".  Matty is to walk her to the target and make sure the plan executes itself, then he'll get paid.

The press conference is still going on  The secretary general of the U.N is now speaking saying "I look to Trustwell to be partners in peace.  Anything less than that and I can't help but wonder what our soldiers are risking their lives for".  Matty is walking with Amina, they are going to the peace conference of course. But Matty knows they'll never get past the barricade, "and I knew they'd detonate in this crowd if they had to".
There are limits of what Matty will be party to.
He thinks "fuck it" and pulls Amina into a side alley.  He passionately snogs her so he can rip off the trigger mechanisn off her explosive belt.  He hurls it away as the watching cell see him bolt and when they try to detonate nothing happens.  Amina rips off the explosives and goes chasing after Matty as the cell fires on them. He hides in a house thinking he might have got her killed anyway.  Angrily the cell's leader orders "the contingency - now!"

The U.N secretary general is being driven away and their armoured car drives over an I.E.D which causes the whole convoy to explode.  He survives and staggers out the burning wreck, only to be shot by gasmasked men.  The cell leader is told, "it's done".  Amina finds Matty slumped in an alley and slaps him hard.  The chapter concludes with a news report saying the U.N has withdrwan its forces from the DMZ.  The head of Trustwell security vows to investigate the attacks and "bring the killers to justice".

The next chapter begins with Amina curled up asleep while Matty sorts out by phone what to do with her.  When she wakes he tells her she can go stay with a friend of his called Jamal. Amina accuses him of washing his hands of her and that he's made it impossible to return to the cell. She says it was her business how she wanted to end her life and "I don't even who you are to tell me anything,  You lie to me, lie to the others.  I'll bet you'll lie to your friend Jamal about me.  Do you even know who you are?"
Trustwell on the rampage.
"Just barely" thinks Matty. When they get to Jamal he fills them in about what is happening.  Trustwell is "running wild". They believe they now have a mandate to crack skulls as the remaining U.N peacekeepers have new rules of enagement, "back away slowly".  Matty lies to him about Amina, just telling him she is an important source and she needs to be kept safe until he breaks the story.

Jamal says he can't guarantee her safety if someone in his crew sees profit in selling her out.   He want's to know about the story but Matty say it's better he don't know just yet. Jamal agrees to keep her safe for "a week tops".  Matty leaves Amina saying her death, when it comes, should mean something, and the people back at Trustwell will kill her, "for no other reason than they're pissed off".  As Jamal leaves with Amina he tells Matty to call Zee sometime.

The next few pages are a montage of Trustwell security rampaging through the DMZ killing people left, right and centre while a news report plays over the images.  It reports on a conference being attended by various interested parties and begins by saying that the U.N peacekeeping mission has failed, that Americans don't want foreign troops walking the streets.  A counter argument is put forward that Trustwell needed the cover of the U.N. but are now being allowed total discretion in how they operate.

Now with the absence of any oversight, "it's going to get a lot worse before it gets better".  There is now chaos on the steets and Trustwell "may see opportunities there".  Someone then defends Trustwell saying they are doing what they need to do to fight the Free States and carry out the reconstruction.  But someone accuses Trustwell of carrying out "collective punishment.  In effect letting everyone know there is a new sheriff in town".  At the end of the day, when reconstruction is complete, the residents of the DMZ will be the ones to "tell us if it was worth it or not".
The FSA commander and Danzinger.
Back with Matty, he is down in the subway and meets up with the leader of the Free States forces there.  Matty thinks he owes him affter the debacle with Viktor Ferguson in book two. With him is another Free Stater who tells him he should have let Amina die.  Matty asks how he knows about her and the man shows him his Trustwell Security pass and introduces himself as Danzinger.

He tells Matty he just plays Trustwell Security but is a loyal Free Stater.  He also manages the cell Matty joine confirming Matty's suspicions that Trustwell is behind the "terrorist" attacks on itself an the U.N.  He says hiring a group of "raghead terrorists to fuck shit up for you, create demand for your services" has lead to them taking charge of the city now.

Matty asks why attack the U.N? Danzinger says Trustwell didn't need them anymore.   The Iraq war taught everyone that "hit 'em hard enough and they'll cut and run".  Matty is rendered speechless with rage, Danzinger agrees it's deplorable, "what some motherfuckers won't do for a little job security".

Later Matty sits alone, thinking about what Danzinger, told him.  It was all off the record sadly, so he needs a way to verify what he was told.   He's in a mess right now, can't show his face to the cell, Trustwell, Liberty News, his friends.   Only one person left, he calls up Kelly Colloney and tells her everything, "my first honest, open conversation with a friend in weeks".

A bit later one of the cell tracks him down and attacks him with a knife calling him a "traitor".  Matty manages to fight him off, using his knife on him.  He wonders how they found him, then realises they bugged his phone while they were torturing him.   And in a panic he realises they heard his conversation with Kelly and know where Jamal and Amina are, so he races off to find them.
Jamal's self sufficient camp.
As he runs he thinks to himself that this is "going to put my entire time in the DMZ to the test".   The mental and physical exertions, his wits and the friendships he's made.  He realises he'll either "expertly pull it off or have fucked up everything i've come to care about".   He arrives at Jamal's camp only to find the Free States are there.  He goes to the house Amina is in, only to find Zee there too.  "You really get around, Matty, don't you?" Zee says.

Jamal tells him that the Free States brought with them the workers being used in the so-called terrorist cells.  Matty goes outside and angrily confronts Danzinger over this.  The Free States commander calms Matty down and says this is part of the "plan".  It's about a post-Trustwell Manhattan, everyone of his friends will be safe, this is only temporary.

The commander says a power vacuum is coming, now they have the worker cells they have Trustwell by the balls, Danzinger got them out before they could be "liquidated".  Matty says "... you're going to sell them back to Trustwell" and the commander says they'll be bought, "every single one".

Matty thinks "fuck that".  It was the second time the FSA had him playing propaganda machine. He is told everything about Trustwell and what they told the worker cells to do, and the FSA want to use it as a bargaining chip to gain ground and power in the DMZ.

Matty:  "The idea of all this time I invested, the people I lied to, betrayed, put at risk. All for a story that was being stolen right before my eyes.  I couldn't bear it".

So he held up his phone hidden under the mike used to record the testimony of one of the cell members, he hit redial and it went straight through to Kelly at I.W.N, "and she got her exclusive".
You couldn't do that with a Smartphone.
And in less than an hour it hit the airwaves.  This sends the Free States commander into a panic, they have to pull back to the Lincoln Tunnel immediately.   He holds a gun to Matty's head yellying, "this could have been it! We could have won!  We could have ended the war!" He accuses Matty of being a typical journalist, always chasing "goddamn bylines". 

Matty thinks to himself that for the first time he felt he owned the title of journalist, the commander could have pulled the trigger then "and I would have died with that huge grin on my face".  He might have been killed right then, we'll never know because the U.N arrive in helicopters and the FSA commander runs off.  The U.N trooper who runs over to Matty says "a lot of very powerful people are going to be very grateful to you, Mr.Roth.  You should put some thought into what you'll ask for in return".   Matty knows, he wants Amina left alone.

When the U.N are gone with the Trustwell cell members Matty tells Amina she is free, no one is going to detain or prosecute her.  She can do whatever she wants.  Bitterly she asks him what she is "free" to do.  Starve to death?  Take a random bullet?

Amina: "If that's freedom, I wish I had never met you, Matty.  I wish I'd given my life as I always wanted.  I could be in heaven, with a peaceful mind. Away from this horrible, horrible world.  What could possibly be more free than that?"

Matty tries to tell her she can stay with her, but she sadly tell him to forget about her, "at least then I can be free of you".  And Matty has no reply to that as she walks away from him.

Matty watches her as she leaves and realises that the one advantage of working undercover was that you got to be someone fictional, "but then when it ends, and you come back to reality... the repercussions are unavoidable". 
Manly tears Matty?
He is feeling the comedown hard but then Jamal and Zee congratulate him on the story and saving Amina, Zee kisses him saying it was the most "selfless thing" I've seen you do in two years. Matty holds her and buries his face in her shoulder thinking, "I was back with friends who cared about me.  At that moment, nothing else mattered".

Two months later Matty is doing some shopping in the market when he sees a tatty woman foraging for food in the nearby bins.  With horror he realises its Amina.  Aghast he watches her kneeling eat something she found, then he just dumbly watches as she wanders off dragging a bunch of possession behind her, before taking a call on his phone and turning away from her retreating form. The end.

An exciting storyline that looks at how both the U.N. and Private Military Contractors would operate in a place like the DMZ. However, this is still more a story about Matty's evolution as a journalist.  By presenting a mystery with a conspiracy that could be seen as entirely credible, we get to see him spend prolonged amounts of time undercover, survive days of physical and mental torture and not give up his real identity, be forced into a moral quandry regarding maintaining that cover, and finally stop himself being the Free States chewtoy by cleverly breaking the story via his trusted contact. One of the most interesting parts of the story is Amina, she shows that sometimes there are no happy endings in the DMZ.  Matty did what was right by her and she still would rather have died a martyr even though what she was dying for was manipulative bullshit. This is not the last we'll see of her, but for now she remains testement to the notion you can have done everything you possible could for a person and still have it suck.  Once again Matty's journalistic zeal maintains the balance of power in the DMZ.  Was the commander right?  Could they have really ended the war if they had done things his way and blackmailed Trustwell?  We'll never know, he is obviously pretty self-serving and biased Matty can therefore be justified in taking the least-worst line, which is mainatining the status quo... for now.  Join me in a few days time for more DMZ.