guttergeek formerly discontinuous review of graphic narrative; now just discontinuous

A Comics Reader's Diary 11/6/16: Jason Shiga's DEMON Vol 1

Here are just a few of the comics storylines I'll be happy to never read again:

  1. Favorite child of kindly inventor discovers after his death/disappearance that he was not so beneficent after all.
  2. Protagonist takes psychedelic drug (or stand-in for same) and has a really trippy adventure. Returns to "normal" but everything is now changed. Or not.
  3. It is really hard finding an apartment in Brooklyn when you are an underemployed cartoonist.
  4. Superhero dies and then has to battle through various vaguely defined realms to be not-dead.
  5. Everyone thinks they are alive but it turns out in the end they have been dead all along.
  6. Superhero turns out not to have the best interests of humanity at heart
  7. In the not-so-distant future everything will be horrible but also pretty kinda cool
  8. In the not-so-distant future everything is pretty cool but also kinda horrible

What I had no idea, however, was that there was in fact one story I was dying to read above all other possible stories in the best of all possible worlds. This is the story Jason Shiga, the mad genius behind Meanwhile, Bookhunter, and Empire State, has produced with Demon, his new multi-volume epic which he somehow convinced the usually quite respectable First Second to publish. In other words, what I have been waiting for all these years without knowing it was the story involving a suicidal sociopath who, unfortunately for everyone in his path, cannot in fact die, who learns to use commit suicide with ever more creative and ingenious weapons—including the masterstroke of this volume, a piece of damp toilet paper found in the buttcheeks of an overweight prisoner shaped and hardened with dried semen into a shiv. You know you need to see this, too.

Seriously, this book is insane, and of course also a brilliant intellectual problem-solving exercise, as one would expect from Shiga's work. It is a loud shout-out to comics at their most off-the-hook, socially-irresponsible, and straight-up reckless, a side of comics we are always at risk of losing in this age of the "graphic novel" and "comics studies" unless it is replenished occasionally with the dried semen of way too much liberty. In this respect, Shiga is a true patriot—and maybe the true heir to the Founding Fathers, in whose name his protagonist speaks that timeless cry for liberty, "Suck my private-sector balls motherfucker!"

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