“On the Ground” Part 2
Writer: Brian Wood
Artists: Riccardo Burchielli & Brian Wood
Publisher: DC Comics/Vertigo
I really like the art. It’s gritty and realistic, and yet exaggerated enough to convey the absurdity of the situations depicted. And I like the setting; there’s a lot of great potential in this tale of a New York under siege, some of which comes through in this issue with a great little sequence concerning a pair of snipers communicating and falling in love with each other via long range messages they read through their high-tech gunsights. Every time a nugget like that pops up, I think Brian Wood’s got a good interesting series on his hands here (although it’s the kind of thing 2000AD has been doing with Judge Dredd for almost thirty years now).
But then I hit a page featuring excessive coolness, of which there are far too many, and I find myself actively disliking the comic. The embattled New Yorkers grow food on the relatively safe rooftops, and it’s made into tofu. There are a lot of good reasons for producing stuff like tofu in a situation like the one depicted in this comic, not least the considerable difficulties involved in raising meat animals in a warzone, but the overriding feeling is more that it’s because what goatee-stroking hipsters like to eat. And of course, these downtrodden folk are all sporting the latest urban fashions, all bright and clean, rather than the grubby but functional stuff they’d probably be wearing in actuality, as if through all the bombing and shooting, Old Navy remained open. I just can’t help but feel that Wood is undermining the impact of his story with all this cosy apocalypse nonsense.
The story’s importance is also undermined by some wonky and unsubtle storytelling. A scene in which the lead character visits a makeshift ward full of children literally blown apart in the bombing run the government launched to “rescue” him could and would have worked much better as a silent sequence. However, Wood’s approach is to have the characters waffling on incessantly about how horrible it all is, rather than letting the visuals carry the emotion. The problem is apparent throughout, as if Wood either has little confidence in the storytelling abilities of his artist, or is rather too sure of the quality of his own Ellis-lite swearing-is-cool scripting.
This is a frustrating title, as the potential inherent in the setting, the potential Wood himself has mentioned again and again in promotional material for the series, is there, but it remains obscured behind a morass of trendy stylistic elements. If Wood could resist trying to win over the cool kids and just concentrate on telling the story he so obviously wants to tell, this would be a much better comic.
What did you think of this book?
Have your say at the Line of Fire Forum!