Review: ‘Demo’ by Brian Wood and Becky Cloonan
It seems every month that a new comic comes out purporting to offer a new, more realistic slant on superheroes. From Watchmen to Next Men to Powers to Kick Ass, that idea has long been a popular one.
Except, none of those comics feel very real. Sure, they take elements from reality and offer a slightly more grounded or cynical look at heroes, but the stories within their pages don’t begin to evoke everyday life.
And this is why Demo stands so far apart. The on-again, off-again series from writer Brian Wood and artist Becky Cloonan is finally concluded, and all 12 issues are now collected in a substantive new softcover (Vertigo, $19.99).
Begun in 2003 with a first issue featuring a girl struggling to handle her newfound telekinesis, the series was always about the people in the stories, not the abilities that set them apart. That first issue is rich with metaphor: the girl learns how to break away from home, become independent and not get in the way of her potential. Valuable lessons for anyone.
One of the strongest issues (#5), follows a girl who physically changes in appearance to match the desires of the people who see her. She could be a kooky X-Man, but Wood instead uses the strange ability to explore perception and desire, and the line between love and lust.
While the material is well worth reading on its own, one of the subtexts to watch is the continued development of Wood and Cloonan. You can trace their growth as creators along with the issues, and in the end the series is something entirely new again, not really touching on superpowers at all.
Cloonan’s work is exceptional, bouncing between styles from issue to issue. It’s hard to believe one person was responsible for such a disparate collection of art.
And while Demo features almost entirely young, hip characters — Wood’s bread and butter — he writes their interactions with as much grace as any writer in comics. There is a deep, haunting truth to these stories, so realistic it almost hurts.
Van Jensen is a former crime reporter turned comic book journalist. Every Wednesday, he braves Atlanta traffic to visit Oxford Comics, where he reads a whole mess of books for his weekly reviews. Van’s blog can be found at graphicfiction.wordpress.com.
Publishers who would like their books to be reviewed at ComicMix should contact ComicMix through the usual channels or email Van Jensen directly at van (dot) jensen (at) gmail (dot) com.
I like this series a lot and think the new collection looks great. However, I think you might be confused about this series history. The final issue of DEMO came out way back in late November/early December of 2004 and the original collection from the original publisher actually came out about a year later in December 2005. Perhaps you were thinking of the often delayed LOCAL (Brian Wood & Ryan Kelly) which just finished and the hardcover collection was solicited recently?