Monday, May 14, 2007

Demo

I had heard about Demo for quite a while, all good things, just one of those books I never got around to until recently. I read so damn much I sometimes forget to look outside of my regular reads for things I know I would like but just get moved down the shopping list.

If I had any regrets about Demo, it's that I had waited so long to read it. In a peachy, fat, collected form, it's now one of my favorite new additions to my graphic novel library. Written by Brian Wood, I'm not that sure how to describe it outside of "wonderful." It's basically a collection of what I can only assume are random stories centered around young adults. They start out normal enough, stories about exclusion, emotional strife, teen angsty things, and then out of nowhere each takes a turn for the supernatural. It's often shocking, sometimes downright violent, and in a few instances even banal, yet fascinating.

The thing that gets you (or at least really gets me) is just when you finish one powerful chapter that has inexplicably sucked you into a profound attachment to the characters, the next chapter starts totally anew. And then it happens again. And again. I was furiously eating through the book with a yearning to see these characters lives continued only to be beset with all new characters and then want to see their story continued too! Masterfully Wood has crafted each chapter (or issue, as it were) with this unsettling, but energizing effect, I can honestly say I've not read a comic like it.

Adding to the feeling is some fantastic black and white art by Becky Cloonan, a modernist comiker artist with a bent for manga who absolutely need not be defined by that genre. The art is handled exceptionally well, and compounding Wood's need to jump from story to story, Cloonan's art changes in style to suit it, sometimes radically from one story to the next.

There is a pullquote for Demo that goes something like "This is what X-Men would be like if it were written today," and at first I thought that was a really strange thing to say. After reading the book I understand it better, but to get that you really need to take yourself outside of what mainstream comics are today and imagine what X-men was representing when it originally debuted. The stories in Demo are in a lot of ways timeless, but have elements cemented in what society expects of young people. Additionally the stories are windows into the anxieties and power fantasies we are all tortured by at some point in our lives.

Demo is published by AiT/PlanetLar, which frankly has a hell of a library under its belt for being an "indie publisher." These guys like good comics, and Demo sure as hell is one of the best.

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