by Brian Wood (writer), Cliff Chiang (art), Jeromy Cox (colors), and Jared K. Fletcher (letters)

The Story: Amina recovers an abandoned baby in the streets of the DMZ, forcing her to grapple with motherhood, her history, and an end to her solitude.

What’s Good: Through this issue, Wood makes it painfully clear how different standards of morality and ethics are in the DMZ.  At times, so different are these standards that it’s tempting to write them off entirely and believe that they’re either non-existent or drastically lesser than our accepted social rules and conscience.  Of course, while events may have us lean in that direction, Wood’s excellent work with main character Amina’s narration quickly chastises us for this consideration; it puts a human face to the situations of this issue and the moral and ethical choices that play out.  The narration complicates things a great deal and makes it clear that morality and ethics are in play, they are simply those of people who are fundamentally damaged and thus they are of a more malleable sort, both forgiving and resigned.  It’s complex and very heavy stuff.

The motherhood side of the issue is also reasonably dealt with, if only because the baby provides an anchor to the otherwise ever-changing Amina.  The situation helps to make the character at least somewhat relatable and sympathetic.  It also allows Wood to analyze and showcase her emotions and her humanity.  There’s both a tenderness and a desperation here that has always been the meat of DMZ.

Cliff Chiang’s art is a natural fit for DMZ.  Though his work is quite as scratchy or scraggly as what we get from series mainstay Riccardo Burchielli, the more defined and polished look serves to give Amina’s tale it’s own unique spin on DMZ that feels cleaner and more digestible.

What’s Not So Good: While I’ve generally loved Brian Wood’s one-shots, I can’t help but feel that the page count is the enemy here.  I just don’t think that Wood was able to do as much with Amina’s relationship with the baby as he could have.  The motherhood dynamic and Amina’s ownership and relationship with the infant are never fully established.  It seems as though the issue comes to its conclusion right when she starts to get closer to the child.  The impact of the ending would have also been far stronger had this connection between Amina and the baby been more developed.  Wood just didn’t get to spend enough time getting us to invest in the relationship, nor did we get to see enough of a change in Amina as a result of the child’s entering her life.

Amina herself is also a difficult character to really get into.  The problem is that, as the character herself points out, Amina has gone through so much in her life and has completely transformed herself so fully and so frequently that ultimately, the character we encounter this month bears little resemblance to the Aminas of the past, and thus it’s hard to really feel any real familiarity with the character.

Conclusion: A good issue, but I expected a little more.

Grade: B –

-Alex Evans