Robert Kirkman is one of the best writers in comics today. Maybe ever. The Walking Dead is one of the most consistently good - no, consistently excellent - monthlies on the shelves. He has a way of putting human pathos first, no matter what the backdrop is. Aside from his zombie magnum opus, he's given us the carnage filled superhero saga of Invincible, Marvel Zombies, and the campy monster-as-hero stories of the Astounding Wolfman. Even non-comic fans can find something to engage them in his four-color escapades. Now that my accolades are out of the way, I can tear into him for whatever Demonic is trying to be.

You see, Kirkman loves the 90's. More specifically, he loves 90's comics. As anyone who was reading comics in the 90's can tell you, this was a dark, dark time. Over-production of gimmicky titles and a surge of speculation in the possible value of 'rarities' lead to what was nearly a complete collapse of the market. If that's not enough of an indictment for this era of excess, the decade also brought us Spawn and about 700 different X-Men titles. You see, the seeds that Frank Miller and Alan Moore planted with their genius works flourished into a weed-ridden patch of imitators. Rather than seeing the nuance and high-minded literacy that came with a lot of these masthead titles, creators saw one thing - "Hey, let's make the character all dark and angst-ridden and it will sell! Let's throw some mindless violence in there, too!" As a result, we were swamped with lots of Punishers and Venoms and guys who killed with a gleeful grimace. Now, more than a decade later, I see 'Demonic #1', part of Top Cow's 'Pilot Season', gracing my local comic shop. span name="intelliTxt" id="intelliTXT">

In "Demonic," a mild-mannered family man, Scott, stalks the streets at night in his guise as the titular Demonic, a super-powered, crime-fighting butcher. He's got a spooky face, tattered cloak, and some ridiculously effective claws he uses to mete out brutal justice. Despite being a detective by day, Scott's motives for his nocturnal crusade aren't terribly altruistic. He's doing it not for the greater good, but to sate the hunger of a gnarly demon only he can see, one who comes to him at night, urging him to kill. The trick is, the demon really wants Scott's family. It wants the souls of his wife and son. In an effort to placate the beast, Scott goes out as Demonic and hacks up criminals, a spiritual condolence prize.

I was wary from the cover alone. It was typical of your horror/superhero hybrid. Demonic even sports a crude anarchy talisman around his neck. Nothing new here. But it was Kirkman. I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt. And the artist was none other than Marc Silvestri, who still painted my love of comics with mutant-filled nostalgia. So I grabbed it. What followed was exactly what I expected - 20-odd pages of carnage and hollow hand-wringing. The obstacles our protagonist faces are compelling enough, I suppose, but every character stays confined with the the 4 corners of their panels. They're no one we haven't met before. There's little definition and even less engaging dialogue. After some long-winded taunting from the demon, Scott slips out into the night to chop up some bad guys. The result is epic violence. Unfortunately, it's violence that we have no emotional attachment to in the least.

That's not to say that the violence and action isn't pretty. It certainly is. Silvestri hasn't lost his touch. His images are rich and coherent and gore has rarely looked so good, if a little too pretty. I'd like to see what he could do with a better version of this script.

There's a lot of nastiness here, but it's all just for the sake of being nasty, just like the rest of the 1990's. It's nothing new. It's no fresh exploration or an interesting twist on the hundreds of similar titles we've seen. If anything, this is a step backwards. If this pilot issue is received well received, we'll see Top Cow launch a new superhero ongoing. I can only hope that readers will just stick with the Walking Dead.

categories Horror