Saturday, April 24, 2010

Demo - A Review

It’s interesting that this review should come up so soon after my review of A Single Man. Both experiences were terribly personal ones, but also one that I’d want to share with someone.

I’d like to think that they were both stories that everyone can relate to in some small way, but may view differently or pick different moments--or in the case of Demo, stories that affected them more or less than yourself. Which would make any discussions about them all the more interesting, because you wont necessarily agree with someone but you learn just a little more about them. 


Demo is a critically praised graphic novel of a collection of short stories that is described on the back cover as “twelve stories of young people standing at a crossroads, each faced with a life-altering decision in a world where merely living is hard enough.” It was originally recommended from a woman at my new favourite comic book store in Surrey (seriously, go there. Buy stuff. The staff is awesome) and after reading the back cover I thought, ‘hey, I’m a young person, I’m at a crossroads, it’s so relatable!’

Except y’know, in a less perky voice.

Now with anything (I mean, have you read any of the other posts? I tend to be a little neurotic), I was a tad hesitant after getting through the first few stories. Twelve stories in any type of forum doesn’t really give a lot of exposition. If anything, these are snap shots of people in their lives, right at that crossroads. There aren’t any easy answers (please, there aren’t any answers at all), it’s more of a glimpse into someone’s life for one bad day.

I suppose I should have prefaced this, but this is a good a time as any to say that I’m not a real fan of short stories. I find with a lot of them you just get invested into these characters and this story and then it’s over. I like a bit of--substance to my stories, I want to watch a character grow and change and develop. Which is probably why I enjoy reading series so much. I just feel that in general, you get more out of a story if you can have a bigger story and learn more.

Demo kinda blew that opinion out of the water.

Writer Brian Wood can fit more into a few pages of script than most authors can get through their first book. Sure there are stories that I didn’t quite feel I related to or perhaps didn’t have anything to do with my life, but that didn’t make it any less emotional or any less profound. The writer in me is jealous as hell that he can use so little to achieve so much. This is one of the reasons Demo works so well (the second reason that it does such a good job is Becky Cloonan’s artwork. She’s an artist who can switch styles with each story so well you’d think there was 12 different artists on this story. Which itself is an amazing feat but her artwork is impeccable and Wood makes good use of her ability to paint what he doesn’t need to write. It shows that he’s a smart writer who knows when to tell, when to show and when to let the artwork do the talking). These stories aren’t meant to solve problems or give you a lesson to learn. They’re snapshots, they’re relatable antidotes and it has been a long time that I have felt the way I felt after finishing this book.

I read a review online saying that Demo would rub you raw and I think that is the best description I could think of for this book. I’m sure there’s something for every young person somewhere in this book. After setting down the book I withdrew into myself, I didn’t want to talk to anyone or get involved--which was kinda awkward as I finished it in my lunch hour at work. It was an incredibly emotional and realistic portrayal of people going through their life.

For me, the two stories that meant the most, were not so shockingly about break ups. And as horrible as this may be of me, I don’t want to quite give a synopsis of it, lest I spoil something. However, if you do pick it up, for your reference they are “Mixtape” and “Breaking Up”. Interesting that they’re right after one another for a one, two punch to the gut.

Or at least that’s how it felt for me.

Either way that I see it, Demo is that book that you can loan to all your friends and they’ll each find something different it. It’s the book you can read six months from now or a year, two years and still find something that is so genuinely true for what you’re going through at that moment.

Demo will rub you raw.

But only because it so accurately portrays how hard it can be to grow up.

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