Review: Demo #3

“Volume One Love Story”

Story: Brian Wood
Art: Becky Cloonan
Letters: Jared K. Fletcher

How we deal can define who we are. Crisis, excitement, disappointment– the way we react shapes both our self-perceptions and the way others perceive us. Most of the time, the line between those two realities is pretty solid. For Marlo, the focus of the newest issue of Demo, however, this line doesn’t exist. All the little things most of us keep inside our own minds are forced into the open for her in the form of post-it notes. She has hundreds of them, each one a comic book thought bubble made real. They leak out of her home, onto the bus she takes every day, her innermost processing stuck to the light posts and newspaper boxes she passes. She holds a pile of them in her lap at her therapy session. They’re a crutch, but they make her happy.

Until, one day, other notes start to appear in her office, on her doorstep, in her house. Notes in another hand altogether. Notes that aren’t hers, whose author appears to know her quite well indeed.

“Volume One Love Story” wears its heart on its sleeve, just like one of Marlo’s notes. It’s straightforward and breezy, and as Brian Wood notes in the issue’s backmatter, on-the-nose is sometimes the only way to fly. Given how dark any given issue of Demo can be, this story’s placement in the middle of the series is both surprising and welcome. It’s a cheerful chaser, a shot of quirky sunshine in the middle of darker stories like issue two’s “Pangs.”

While Wood’s story- his “cutest” ever, according to Becky Cloonan- is certainly at the heart of things here, once again it’s Cloonan’s art that brings it to life. Demo‘s creative team really is a dream collaboration; I would love to see a reprint of this issue colored in the simple, bright style of the cover, just to enhance the bold linework. Becky also lettered every one of the post-its, and while Brian was careful to fill in messages for the plot-specific ones, the rest of the notes were all her own work. The end result, and the way they’re used in both story and art, is rather like a deeply personal set of the Oblique Strategies– Marlo uses them as guides to internal structure and springboards for personal expression, even consulting them during her therapy sessions.

We’re halfway through the series and Demo is holding strong with what might be its strongest entry yet. Wood and Cloonan promise another walk down the dark side of the street in the preview for issue #4, “Waterbreather.” I have a feeling I’ll enjoy the entire collection of tales either way, but I can hope for at least one more lighter note like “Volume One Love Story” before we’re done.

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