Inspiring "DEMO"nstrations of Skill and Possibility

"DEMO" v2 #1 from Vertigo (an imprint of DC Comics)

Have these questions ever crossed your mind: "Superheroes could be so much more as a genre, couldn't it?" or "Why do they all have to be in that damn spandex, why can't they just be regular people with weird abilities?" If you ever thought these things (and REALLY, haven't we ALL?) you should be reading "DEMO", the anthology comic-book mini-series written by Brian Wood and drawn by Becky Cloonan. Either go back and find the original series from small publisher AiT/Planet Lar or buy these new issues from big publisher Vertigo as they come out. Or better yet, both.

When I came across the collected first volume of "DEMO" on the comics shelf of my good friend Davy Brustlin, I was mesmerized. I still haven't read all of Volume 1, but as the series is an anthology (and as such doesn't have any continuing characters or situations) we all have the freedom to read whatever we can find.

I have come to think of the series' name as an implication more than a label. A dare: 'This is what we can do with superheroes. This is our demonstration. Can you top us?' And this issue shows us once again why they deserve that title: These stories are strong. [At left, is a page from v1 #1. Raw teenage angst portrayed in angsty lines.]

To kick off the new volume Wood and Cloonan show us the mind of Joan. (Which is my mother's name. Weird.)

Joan doesn't really sleep anymore. She can't. She keeps seeing a vision in her dreams of someone falling to their death. Feeling a moral ache and an apparent inability to do anything about it, Joan draws away from her own life in San Francisco in growing concern over this person, this woman, in her dreams who seems to be falling to her doom.

Finally, deciding the location of the girl's fall she rushes across the globe hoping to save her in time. Quitting her job, breaking up with her boyfriend, and spending all her savings in a desperate and STILL sleepless race to St. Paul's Cathedral in London.

What she finds is that there is no girl about to fall, that the life she abandoned was very easy to abandon, and that in the falling moment of final freedom of all her burdens, as she topples over the guard rail to be saved at the very last moment by a nameless security guard, she can finally sleep.

At first glance a pulpy, simple story about a girl who dreams someone falling and rushes there to self-fulfill the prophecy, the story becomes something much deeper. If her life was so boring, by traveling half-way around the world and stranding herself there on a wild-goose chase, she did save the girl in her vision. She saved herself.

[To the right, super gorgeous page from v2 #1. A more mature sleek style for a more mature woman.]

Though this first story doesn't have the raw power of the debut issue of the first volume it is still really, really wonderful. And, although Brian Wood may not have been quite as awesome as he has been in the past, Becky Cloonan shows a great refinement of the crazy intensity and skill on display in her past work. Plus the story of a girl taking a chance, leaving her shitty life, and being helped by a male supporting character actually kinda parallels the story in v1 #1. So that's cool!

This comic is like NBC's "Heroes" with all the stupid taken out. Read it.

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