Review: Demonic #1

One of my college professors once told me that when writing an essay, it was acceptable not to know your conclusion when you start writing, as long as you make it clear which topics you will address and what aspects of those topics intrigue you. In a way, this applies to all art forms. Sometimes the act of creating is the act of discovering. You start with just an image or a line of text and by the end of the process you have a painting, novel, or, if you’re so inclined, a comic. Unfortunately for Demonic #1, the creators haven’t quite figured out what topics they want to explore. Demonic #1 is horror/crime comic centering on the life of Detective Scott Graves, an NYPD cop with a strange past, who makes a deal with a devil, named Aeshma, to save his family. Christopher Sebela is the writer for this issue and his scripting is a mixed bag. The two relationships which best demonstrate the highs and lows of this book are Graves’ relationship with his partner, Detective Dani Fischer, and the antagonist of the series, the demon Aeshma. From the first panel Sebela nails their NYPD partner dynamic. Their scenes together take up relatively little page space, but Sebela does a great job squeezing the most from the dialogue.

Demonic01_coverBy contrast, Graves relationship with Aeshma takes up most of the second half of the issue and does little to clarify their relationship. It is as if Sebela doesn’t know what Aeshma is yet. Is she a metaphor for Graves’ plunge into insanity? Or is she a representation of a past trauma come back to haunt him? Or is she just an evil devil from hell? The way she’s written it is as though Sebela is trying to keep his options open, being vague for the sake of vagueness.

Niko Walter’s art also suffers from a case of indecision. Overall, I enjoy his work, it has a very stark and gritty feel to it. I especially like his scattering of small panels highlighting different objects in various scenes. It is as if we are seeing the action through the eyes of a detective, the world as a string of details. However, this overall style does hinder some of the horror elements. For instance, Graves charges into a woman’s apartment to find, among the classic insanity wallpaper of random photos, documents, and notes, the deranged woman and a victim chopped into pieces. The way the scene is drawn, you almost miss the body parts that litter the room. They feel like an afterthought and as a result scene falls a little flat. Crime art tends to be grounded, while horror art errs on the side of extreme. If you draw horror like a police procedural, it is going to come out looking a little dull for horror fans.

The biggest problem and best example of this issues’ brand of schizophrenia comes late in the issue. Warning: Spoilers Ahead. After what seems like very little convincing, Detective Graves agrees to become Aeshma’s murder puppet. We are taken through a series of panels where he acquires various weapons and clothing, with her by his side cooing in his ear. By the end of the comic he looks like a cross between Moon Knight and Freddy Krueger. Now costume design aside, this would be fine if Aeshma was clearly figment of Graves’ broken psyche, but latter in the issue, we see her boost his strength, speed, and make him impervious to bullets. Am I expected to believe that this demon has the power to make people superheroes, but thinks the best way to kill people is to create an evil Edward Scissorhands? If you want to include crime, horror, and superhero elements in a book you need to make sure it makes sense to do so.

In the end, this issue just has too much going on to be considered better than average. It suffers from the age-old problem of trying to do too much in the introductory issue. There are good moments, and if you’re a fan of crime/horror and can get past the superhero/supervillain aspects, it provides some intriguing mysteries. Let’s hope the next issues will focus a bit more and decide where this character will take us.

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Demonic #1 Writer: Christopher Sebela Artists: Niko Walter Colorists: Dan Brown Publisher: Image/Skybound Print: $2.99 Format: Ongoing; Print/Digital


Review: Heartthrob #5

There are moments after a big fight with a significant other where the realization hits by either side that the relationship is on its tail end. Things are said that can’t be taken back, feelings share that were just small details at the beginning and kept away in the hope to be forgotten. The fight happens and takes a toll neither one is willing to admit to, so the couple gets back together, the status quo is restored but the nagging in the back of the head remains that it may be time to move on. One last job is planned so Callie can finally go into retirement and enjoy the few extra years Mercer’s heart gave her. Callie and Mercer try to pick up and glue back the pieces of what was broken in New York, after all they can’t really be without each other, can they? The first half of this comic had me a little worried about the page count and that everything might have had to be rushed to a conclusion. A lot of planning and talking, especially between Callie and HEARTTHROB-#5-MARKETING_Preview-1Scout who are agreeing on Otto not being a great third for the crew, and mainly Callie and Mercer talking through what’s happening between them during last issue. Carefully planned and well thought, it leads to the moments the previous issue have been through before, without recapping them. Issue #5 fills in the gaps to make a whole story on to what his first arc led up to in an organic way. It gives out the details that were missing in order to have its audience put the final stage together to add them to the events that transpired through the last pages of issues one through four.

Callie has a wonderful journey ahead of her with one purpose in mind: she wants to be free. She was always waiting to be freed of whatever was in her way at the moment, she was waiting to be freed of her disease, she was waiting to be free of her job, her compliance, and she turns that into determination from the first issue that grows stronger with every event that happen during these five issues. She refuses to give in like she did before the heart transplant. Instead, she powers on with a plan that she shapes and refines throughout her escapades with Mercer and her crew. Callie is fully fleshed character whose journey happens organically, which makes for a relatable protagonist with a visible change a reader can relate to. The frustration of Callie and Mercer’s relationship was well communicated. It felt as with a friend you deeply care for is in a pretty bad relationship but no matter how much you let them know, they don’t want to ruffle the feathers of their current status quo.

Art maintained a standard it set since issue one. With a period piece like Heartthrob, Wilson and Filardi captured an ever-changing Callie who goes from giving up on her life to fighting for it with everything she has. Scout transforms from the crew driver who stays out of other people’s shit to Callie’s trustee and philosophical advisor. All of these happen because of a great capture of expressions and changing mannerisms. I compared the tone of the finale to this story with a Dog Day Afternoon-like series and it remains true, but it keeps control of its influences and owns the story to bring it back to a climax that could only be delivered through this story.

Heartthrob relit this reviewers love for Fleetwood Mac, and proves that a romance comic can be gripping and gritty without being sappy or falling into clichés.

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Heartthrob #5 Writer: Christopher Sebela Artist: Robert Wilson IV Colorist: Nick Filardi Letterer: Crank! Publisher: Oni Press Price: $3.99 Format: Mini-Series; Print/Digital