Saturday, July 21, 2007

Shoulda listened when you said beware of horny girls with New Jersey hair last Saturday

Sometime after one am last night/this morning, I said to myself, "Self, I want to read some comics, but I don't know what comics, so you best find something good." I looked through the box I have beside my bed, which has all of my recent purchases along with some other stuff. None of it was doing much for me. That left my big stack of trades or the other box and the comics stacked on it. Big pile of trades left me feeling cold. The stack atop the other box had something, though: Demo. I had never sat down and read all twelve issues together since they were released. I'd been waiting until enough time had passed and I was in the mood. Here are my thoughts on each issue:

1. "NYC"

One of the least enjoyable issues for me. Just feels too much like one of those stories you'd read in an issue of X-Men Unlimited. I get what Brian Wood was doing here and I do think it works as the first issue of the series, especially to bring in mainstream readers. It's almost a transition piece and that's fine. Just didn't do much for me. Becky Cloonan's art is good, especially on the page where Marie's mind just fucking breaks everything.

2. "Emmy"

This issue suffers from too little space. It still gets the point across about Emmy and her power to make people do what she says, but there isn't enough room for build-up to hit as hard as it can. But, on the other hand, I'm not sure more space wouldn't make it dull. Maybe there's just no pleasing me.

3. "Bad Blood"

Okay, I dug this issue quite a bit. The whole "hating your family growing up, but then realising once you have grown up that things aren't so black-and-white" theme got to me, mostly because I'm at that point where I'm starting to rethink a lot of that shit, too. This issue really feels like a snippet of a larger story and is one of the only issues that I really wanted to see what happens next (mostly because the other issues provide more conclusive endings, not because they were boring).

4. "Stand Strong"

This issue tackles a similar theme as the last: accepting those who came before you, but does so in a different way. Instead of coming to terms with your parents emotionally, this one is much more about drawing the line between childhood and adulthood as James leaves his old friends behind and embraces the lifestyle of his father and grandfather, realising that if it was good enough for them, it can't be that bad.

5. "Girl You Want"

The last two issues dealt with a realisation of maturity and this one does the opposite as Kate begins the issue thinking she's better than everyone who imposes their own ideas of who she should be upon her and then when confronted with someone who doesn't do that, she does it to that person. There's a growth here, but one not as explicit as the previous issues, nor one that's guaranteed as we don't know really if Kate realises what she's done and will learn from it or feel bad and then return to her previous self.

6. "What You Wish For"

Little half-Asian boy in suburban America is picked on, his dog is killed and he kills everyone by resurrecting the dead dog with spooky powers until he is advised not to let the hate eat him. A solid issue, another way of looking at the idea of maturing, which is the dominant theme of the series.

7. "One Shot, Don't Miss"

One of my favourites, partly because of the political angle. But, also just for the sheer cleveress of the lines: "THEY SAY I CAN'T MISS WHAT I SHOOT AT. THAT'S PRETTY MUCH TRUE, IT'S ALWAYS BEEN TRUE. IT'S WHAT MAKES ME A VALUABLE SOLDIER, I'M TOLD. I JUST WONDER WHAT MAKES PEOPLE ASSUME I'M ALWAYS GOING TO BE AIMING AT THE ENEMY?" It's a cool twist on the power. The story also deals with the conflict of providing for family and not compromising one's morals. John makes his choice and it's hard to say if it's the right one.

8. "Mixtape" and 9. "Breaking Up"

These two issues work well together as both handle similar subject matter (relationships and the end thereof) in different ways. "Mixtape" has a man find his girlfriend dead from suicide and a tape for him. He puts it on and her ghost and he go around the city and deal with what's happened. "Breaking Up" has a couple breaking up now with flashbacks to various good and bad times in their past. "Mixtape" has a nicer feeling to it, like what happens isn't quite so bad, as the guy let's things go whereas "Breaking Up" is fucking harsh. It is just a brutal read. It's almost like this is what The Break-Up was trying to do, but couldn't. The funny thing is that you would think the suicide issue would be the emotionally damaging issue, whereas the beaking up over coffee issue would be nicer, but that's not the case. These two are my favourite issues.

10. "Damaged"

The first of two issues that doesn't explicitly have superpowers involved. There's an implied hint of what you COULD call superpowers as the "damage" of one person is transferred to another upon death, but, no, not really. Artistically, this is one of my least favourite issues, mostly because I'm not a fan of the manga style Cloonan uses.

11. "Midnight to Six"

Three friends sign a pledge to be slackers forever and now work the after-hours shift at a grocery store cleaning and shit. And two of the friends want to get on with their lives, while the other is devoted to the slacker lifestyles. Very explicit questions of maturity here and it's a solid issue as all three try to find their way in the world.

12. "Mon Dernier Jour Avec Toi"/"Marie & Mike"

The main story is lyrical as the text is just verse. The other is written by Cloonan with art by Wood and has Marie and Mike from the first issue. Both are more mood pieces that narratives and, in a way, stand outside the rest of the series for that reason. The main story acts more as a coda for the series, while the back-up is a bookend. Neither deals with the maturity theme really, but that's okay as the previous issue provided a strong conclusion for that.

Overall, a very good read. Glad I waited this long to reread it all since a lot of stuff was fresh again.