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DEMO #3: Bad Blood
posted February 9, 2004

Creators: Brian Wood and Becky Cloonan
Publishing Information: AiT/Planet Lar
Ordering Numbers:

Publishers Larry Young and Mimi Rosenheim have made their most significant impression on the American comic book industry by aggressively pushing trade paperbacks, almost to the point of mantra. DEMO is all comic book, yet in terms of presentation may be more attractive than anything else AiT/Planet Lar publishes: slick, heavy paper; a long and appealing end notes section and nicely coordinated use of color on the covers. In contrast to this striking and substantial package, the story it hosts proves really slight. A young girl and full-time boarding school resident returns to the rich county of her early kid years to bury her father, where she is reunited with a half-brother she barely knows. The once-close pair smokes cigarettes, drives around, and engages in a graduate student one-act play's worth of emotional banter before the big reveal at the end surprises with a supernatural, out of the ordinary element.

Having no idea what the genesis of the series is, it seems informed by teenage mutant superhero books to the extent that it fails to stand on its own. Without an existing body of work or the expectations of a storied franchise on which to riff, DEMO scrambles desperately to ground itself in anything that makes the stories being told more than facile classroom exercises. In fictions like this, that task generally falls to observed realism, a way of presenting detail or providing insight into the world the characters inhabit that adds unique emotional resonance to their plight. Yet while Brian Wood can write dialogue that reads like the movie equivalent of real people talking, and Becky Cloonan draws really stylish figures, even their best work is more operatic than realistic. This makes DEMO part of the familiar and increasingly tired celebratory dance for a mish-mash of corporate-alternative quirks and presentational styles. It will resonate with those who wish to be told or reminded that they are beautiful and young and the rules don't mean anything if they don't want them to. It will likely bore everyone else.