The Demon Vol. 1
Book 1 of The Demon Quartet
By Jason Shiga
As the author puts quite eloquently in the foreword, The Demon: Vol 1 is not, repeat not, a children’s comic. As the graphic novel industry has hit an all-time high, the venue of adult oriented comics has risen to the forefront, the typical readers being in their 20’s to 40’s, The subjects it deals with are varied, crude, and very violent. A man who has lost everything, his wife and his daughter, in a fatal vehicle accident that leaves only him alive, Ben, our anti-protagonist, wends his ways through a bank robbery and then suicide (multiple times), as he discovers he has the gift of transferring his consciousness to the closest person to him, when he dies. Thus the “Demon” is born.
The writing is brief, poignant to the situation, and doesn’t back down or hold any punches. This is a story about a nihilist, who simply wants to end his whole life. As the story ramps up, the stakes become higher and as he gets a grip on his new “reality,” pursued by government agents, he starts killing himself again and again, racking up the body count as he shifts perspectives, in viewpoint. It’s a credit to author/artist Jason Shiga, for handling this bizarre discovery, with panache and flair, in a way that the reader can actually maintain his sense of disbelief, over the surreal course of action. Suicide is a touchy subject to be sure, however, Shiga’s The Demon: Vol. 1 handles it with a fresh, almost supernatural light. There are no wasted words and the tone, theme and setting are set up for the next three installments. It’s a surreal ride through this slippery work, but the writing keeps you grounded at all times.
Plot-wise, this graphic novel moves with gusto. A frenetic start up pace is established right off the hop, and continues to climb in intensity. The exploits that Ben endures, go far beyond the scope of the average individual and a nightmare of gritty action ensues. Shiga makes no excuses, however, warning that if you’re easily offended, don’t pick up the book. The plot thickens quite nicely and hits a hearty end in the first installment of this planned quartet. This reader couldn’t stop turning the page to see what happens next, as the mystery unfolds. There are no complaints here – this is a well thought out story.
The artwork is suiting of this graphic novel. Using a simplistic style, to convey quite graphic events, Jason Shiga, spares the reader some of the grotesqueness of the volume. Graphically, the art is the story (or rather the story is the art), and it’s through this rarefied lens that we see our anti-protagonist, and his various antagonists stumble through the initial phase of ‘learning’ about how Ben’s suicides keep him going. It’s simplistic, however the artwork couldn’t be more realistic – it would be grisly, and slightly pornographic. Overall it flows smoothly from panel to panel and readability is greatly enhanced by an almost 4-9 panel grid maintained throughout. It is precisely this and the use of ‘chapters’ that keep the readers eyes flowing and a chance to absorb what he or she has read up to that point.
It’s hard to pinpoint the target audience of The Demon: Vol 1. I’d say fans of urban supernatural tales, perhaps an element of the X-Files, with a dash of nihilist philosophy tossed in, would enjoy this the most, and others, well, if you’re willing to give Jason Shiga’s he Demon: Vol 1 a read, I can guarantee you won’t be disappointed, anticipating the next novel as much as I am.