Rosario Dawson stars as a woman hunting for her missing son in the dystopian ruins of Manhattan in DMZ. The new miniseries is based on the comic book series created by Brian Wood and illustrated by Riccardo Burchielli. Part of the show will premiere during SXSW this month before landing on HBO Max. The official trailer just dropped, and it seems to be equal parts Escape from New York and FX/Hulu’s Y: The Last Man.
(Some mild spoilers for the comic books below.)
Published from November 2005 through February 2012, Wood and Burchielli’s comic book series is set in a near future in which the US has been devastated by the Second American Civil War, and Manhattan has turned into the demilitarized zone of the title. Only about 400,000 people remain on the island, mostly people too poor to evacuate, snipers associated with various factions, and stubborn holdouts who just refuse to leave. (The comics are very New York-centric, inspired by Wood’s experiences living in NYC in early 2003—i.e., the aftermath of 9/11 and US invasion of Iraq.)
The US government’s forces are at war with the Free States of America, which is more of an “idea” than a geographically specific entity. The movement started as a series of grassroots revolts against the federal government’s focus on foreign wars while the infrastructure of America’s cities and states crumbles. The two forces are at a standoff, complicated by several rogue factions. These include a private military contractor; DMZ militias formed by the remaining residents; Wilson’s Triads, a criminal organization operating out of Chinatown; former soldiers who make up the Central Park Ghosts; the Fur Hat Militia; and a combined political party/militia group called Delgado Nation, loyal to the elected populist “governor” of the DMZ, Parco Delgado.
The main protagonist in the comics is photojournalist Matty Roth, who goes into the DMZ with a film crew for the fictional Liberty News Network as a war correspondent. They are attacked by militia, and a wounded Matty ends up stranded in the DMZ. Fortunately, a former medical student named Zee Hernandez treats his wounds and ends up being his guide in the DMZ. Matty is soon sucked into Delgado Nation, eventually leading his own military unit and mistakenly massacring a group of civilians. His actions turn him into a pariah and haunt him for the rest of the series.
Syfy was interested in adapting the comic book series back in 2014, but nothing concrete seems to have come of it, and in October 2019, HBO Max announced its own miniseries. HBO hired Roberto Patino, best known for his work on Westworld and Sons of Anarchy, to create it. Ava DuVernay (Selma, When They See Us) signed on as executive producer and also directed the pilot episode.
Based on this trailer, the miniseries is deviating substantially from the comic series by focusing on Dawson’s character, Alma Ortega, who seems to be loosely based on Zee. Benjamin Bratt plays Parco Delgado, and Hoon Lee (Warrior) plays what looks like a version of Wilson, head of the Chinatown triads. The cast also includes Freddy Miyares, Venus Ariel, Jade Wu, Rey Gallegos, Agam Darshi, Juani Feliz, Rutina Wesley, Mamie Gummer, Nora Dunn, and Henry G. Sanders. None of them is playing Matty Roth, so who knows if the character will even appear?
All four episodes of DMZ will debut on HBO Max on March 17, 2022. We’ll have to see if there’s an appetite for a dystopian near-future where the US has been ripped apart by another civil war, given recent real-world events.
Listing image by YouTube/HBO Max