HBO Max’s DMZ, a series adaptation of the cult DC/Vertigo graphic novel, departs from the comic book’s story, hurting its chances for a second season.
Warning! SPOILERS for DMZ.
HBO’s DMZ presents an original story that’s crafted from different parts and pieces of the original DC/Vertigo comic book, and these major changes to the source material do not bode well for the show’s chances of getting a second season in the near future. It would be an understatement to say that DMZ, which is part of HBO’s March 2022 lineup of releases, makes major changes to the comics. In fact, the only thing that the series truly preserves is the setting and premise of the story: the city of Manhattan during the Second American Civil War. Unfortunately, this alone might not be enough to get the green light for DMZ season 2.
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Much of these changes can be attributed to DC/Vertigo’s DMZ being 72 issues long, while the HBO series is only comprised of four one-hour-long episodes. Even though HBO’s DMZ uses these four hours to stay faithful to the comic book’s core themes and social commentary, the limited series format is simply not enough to really flesh out the epic and highly ambitious narrative of the DMZ graphic novel. While the comic book depends on several connected storylines, HBO’s DMZ is based on just one of the storylines from the comics.
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Although DMZ‘s main characters are inspired by the comics, the series transforms them into characters that feel designed for just one season or storyline. During the ending of DMZ season 1, the warlord Parco Delgado ends up in jail, Zee becomes governor of the DMZ, and Wilson dies because of a gang war. In short, the story of HBO Max’s DMZ gets resolved in one act, leaving little room for a worthwhile follow up. Meanwhile, had HBO simply adapted the original storylines from the DC/Vertigo comic book, there would be more than enough material for several seasons of the series.
DMZ Meaning Explained: What The Story Is Really About
DC/Vertigo’s DMZ is a long and complex tale about life during wartime, civil strife, the burdens of leadership, journalistic ethics, war crimes, death cults, and everything in between. The graphic novel revolves around journalist Matthew Roth, whose good intentions lead him down the path to becoming a local DMZ celebrity, political figure, and, eventually, a war criminal. Unlike most TV shows adapted from DC comics, HBO’s DMZ faces the challenge of adapting one of the most intricate political stories ever told through the comic book medium. At its core, DC/Vertigo’s DMZ is about how those in power are prone to misusing their authority, even when they’re trying to do what’s right. From 2005 to 2012, DMZ unraveled a truly unique, subversive, and compelling take on romanticized notions of New York City.
What HBO Max’s DMZ Adapts From The Comics
Each key element of HBO’s DMZ is very loosely based on the comic book storyline in Blood in the Game, a six-part arc that begins in issue #29 of DC/Vertigo’s DMZ. As violence escalates in the DMZ due to the results of a military trial, the authorities hold democratic elections for provisional governorship over Manhattan. Propped up by the celebrity and support of Matthew Roth, an idealistic local militia leader named Parco Delgado wins the elections in a landslide. The ending of DMZ season 1 flips this by making Parco lose the elections and giving the win to Zee, who, in the series, fulfills comic book Parco’s goals of a unified and sovereign DMZ. Wilson is another series character that was inspired by someone from the comics, and, just like in the series, Wilson’s hidden gold bars in Chinatown play a huge part in the events set off by Blood in the Game.
HBO’s DMZ Reveals Very Little About The Second American Civil War
Although the HBO series does adapt the premise and setting of the original comic book, very little is actually revealed about the surrounding civil war that created the DMZ in the first place. This plays a huge part in why the events in the series feel small and inconsequential when compared to the DC/Vertigo graphic novel. In the comics, the ongoing war between the U.S. and the FSA always factors into the decisions and reactions of the main players. Like the antihero story of Dune, DC/Vertigo’s DMZ uses its larger political setting to foreshadow character motivations, contextualize plot developments, and explore consequences. Although the series uses the same overarching political setting, it rarely mentions or shows elements outside of the DMZ.
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Comic Book Stories HBO’s DMZ Could’ve Told
What’s truly frustrating about all this is the fact that DC/Vertigo’s DMZ is practically a ready-made storyboard for a live-action drama series. The radicalization of journalist Matthew Roth, in particular, is what most fans of the comics expected upon learning that HBO was adapting DMZ. From the very first issue of DMZ, wherein Matthew crash-lands into Manhattan in a helicopter, to subsequent storylines like Body of a Journalist, Public Works, and the rest of Blood in the Game, there are several seasons worth of stories to be found even within just the first half of the comic book. In fact, HBO Max’s 2022 roster of original shows would be greatly enhanced by any of the graphic novel’s storylines. Meanwhile, shorter arcs and one-shots like Ghosts, Decade Later, and Citizen Zee would make for great standalone episodes that provide breaks from the main story, while also informing viewers on character backgrounds and motivations. HBO could have just lifted the stories directly from the comics. While this would most certainly result in an incomplete plot after just four one-hour-long episodes, it would also lay the groundwork for not just the second but several more seasons of DMZ on HBO.
DMZ Season 2 Is Impossible Because Of The Show’s Changes
DMZ season 1’s original but lackluster story makes a poor argument for green-lighting DMZ season 2. Whenever any type of literature is adapted for the screen, changes to the book or source material are to be expected. In this case, the changes that HBO made to the original story result in a show that barely resembles the cult DC/Vertigo comic book. While DMZ season 1 survived production to see the light of day, considering how the story ended for the main characters, both fans and the studio execs might not see the point in pushing through with DMZ season 2.
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DMZ is streaming now on HBO Max.
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About The Author Peter Mutuc (246 Articles Published)
Peter is an elder millennial, cat-father, illustrator, and freelance writer for Screen Rant. Born, raised, and still based in Metro Manila, Philippines, Peter’s knowledge of geekdom was forged in the lagging fires of 56kbps Internet and dodgy forums, and now burns bright with the light of Netflix and downloads. When he’s not having visions about the end of the multiverse, he’s either bothering his cat or brewing ginger beer.