Friday, August 20, 2004


I'm probably the last person in the comics blogosphere to have looked at this series. I'd seen issues of this in the local comics shop, and glanced through them, but my reaction had been that while the art was nice, there didn't seem to be enough story to be worth buying. (This may seem like a strange complaint from someone who keeps talking about manga; but a) a lot of manga isn't as "decompressed" as all that, and b) the economics are different when you're spending ten bucks for 180 pages of story from when you're spending three bucks for 26 pages of story.) But this issue looked intriguing enough for me to buy it. Now that I've read it, it bears out my first impression of the series: the art is good, but the story is just too lightweight.

The idea behind the series is that each issue is a stand-alone story involving different characters: one of the characters in each issue, though not a superhero, has a superpower, and we see the effect that power has had upon the character's life. In this issue, though, the superpower (a very minor one) is really irrelevant: you could say that it adds a bit of shading, but the story would be the same if the superpower were absent. What happens is that a girl breaks up with a guy, and the guy remembers incidents and moments from their past relationship. That's it. Certainly, such a story could be involving, but in this case it isn't. Brian Wood, the author, says in the afterword that everything in the story actually happened to him, and I'm sure that it's all meaningful to him; but he hasn't given the rest of us much reason to care about, or be interested in, this relationship.

Wood also says: "I fear this issue may have come off a little on the side of the man, of Gabe, and if so, it wasn't intentional." "A little" is an understatement: Angie, the woman, comes off as really unpleasant, and Gabe as put-upon and long-suffering. But this isn't the main problem with the characters. The main problem is that neither of them emerges as a character, as opposed to a generic type, at all.

Becky Cloonan's art is very good, though: primarily solid blacks and whites (no grays), with an expressiveness and fluidity missing from most contemporary American comics, both "mainstream" and independent. It may be just my imagination, but I got the sensation that she's been influenced by manga, without resembling manga on the surface at all. I'd like to see what she would do when provided with more solid characterizations than Wood has provided here. I probably won't be picking up any more issues of Demo, though.

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