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.
By 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.
[su_box title="Score: 3/5" style="glass" box_color="#8955ab" radius="6"]
Writer: Christopher Sebela
Artists: Niko Walter
Colorists: Dan Brown
Format: Ongoing; Print/Digital