I rave often in these virtual pages about the graphic novels published by First Second, as thoroughly varied as they are consistently good. Frankly, the biggest problem I've had with them is that they don't always send the books we request, leading to odd situations like the one I've found myself in with Jason Shiga's work.
Shiga is an interesting writer whose four-part contribution to the world of graphic art known as 'Demon' have been summed up particularly well by Nerdist as 'Bizarre, sick, funny, and more than a little depraved,' before adding, 'all of which is part of its charm.' Unfortunately I started out with book two (click here for review) and have now followed up with book four, the last in the series, and that has rather impacted my ability to enjoy this one as much as I perhaps should.
Last time didn't seem to be a big problem. It was pretty clear what was going on from the early pages, with an odd hero seeking an odd revenge. He's Jimmy Yee, whose wife and daughter were killed in a car accident that was caused by a serial drunk driver, Heron Marsh. What's oddest is that Jimmy is the demon of the title and he cannot die. He therefore commits suicide rather a lot, each time transferring his essence into the closest person to him physically. If this challenge sounds like a particularly twisted video game, you'd be right, especially as a government agency, the O.S.S., notices this talent in action and seeks to capture Jimmy for purposes of its own.
In other words, I have a rough idea from book two what happens in book one, but it didn't stop me from having a blast with its first sequel. The fantastic idea behind the series took me a long way, as did the experimentation that Jimmy indulges himself in to figure out his particular talent. Of course, the cat and mouse game he ends up playing with Mr. Hunter of the O.S.S. to retrieve his daughter after finding that she's alive too, having inherited his demon powers, helped immensely.
But that's a lot harder here and not just because the 25 frame 'story so far' involves Jimmy rogering a camel for no reason I can comfortably imagine. Book two ended with a century jump into the future and book four kicks off with Jimmy being born again and not to Jesus. I've lost track of the timeline, because this really doesn't feel like a century on. I've lost track of the plot too, as book three clearly involves a whole heck of a lot of stuff I'm unable to conjure up without reading it.
And, while book four has all the cleverness that book two had, it doesn't seem to make as much artistic sense. It mostly follows a single thread, which is Jimmy and his daughter Sweetpea, both now over a century old, on a new quest for vengeance, taking on Mr. Hunter in a fortress in Osaka, where he's keeping Sweetpea's twin and using her blood to create an army of demons.
So, as the finalé to a series, I really have no idea if this works or not. Certainly, it's as enthusiastically balls-to-the wall as any finalé could be. This entire series is built on Jimmy killing himself over and over again in order to possess other people and taking them too whenever the need arises. The body count is excessive, easily into the hundreds if not the thousands. Well, that's all just mild foreplay before this one, whose cover, featuring Jimmy literally climbing a mountain of bodies, is not overstating the case.
Where it works is the insane cat-and-mouse play. How does Mr. Hunter prevent Jimmy from getting inside his fortress? The two-storey-high and ten-foot-thick stone wall with its electrified barbed wire won't stop him. He'll just kill himself outside and possess the nearest guard to him on the inside. He has to come up with something more tailored to Jimmy's demon nature. Like attaching prisoners to the inside of the wall, spaced out every ten feet. And, if that doesn't do the trick, populating the compound with guards who all have one wooden leg and a baseball bat. All of whom are Navy Seals.
Yeah, this isn't remotely close to reality, but it's the sort of thing you might conjure up over beer with a twisted friend, after you've destroyed the in-laws at Cards Against Humanity. Sure, nothing in that game makes sense but it can be funny. What Jason Shiga does here is layer those boss cards and fashion them into some vague idea of a coherent story. How else could a speech bubble like this make any sort of sense?
'So to summarize, we're up against 500 Navy Seals, 200 pairs of conjoined twins, 25 demon Israeli commandos, a 1,000-demon backup army, 172 field agents, who'll be scattered across every nation state on Earth, and a man so ideogically driven, he'd rather die than abort his plan to take over the world.'
You know, that sort of book.
How about the moment when Jimmy calls Siri and Siri replies with, 'Unleashing ebola, cannons, wild baboons, napalm, and tritium bomb'?
Frankly, if that isn't the sort of line that immediately prompts you to buy this entire series, then it probably isn't for you. ~~ Hal C F Astell