Demonic is a new limited six-issue miniseries from writer Christopher Sebela and artists Niko Walter and Dan Brown, a horror comic that follows a detective as he’s plagued by a demon visiting him to offer a trade. Main character Scott Graves can either kill people and save his ill daughter from death, doing the demon’s bidding wherever and whenever it demands, or he can sacrifice his family. Sebela’s story opens swiftly, forced to cover a lot of ground in this premiere issue, and Demonic #1 manages to introduce the demonic entity while also presenting Graves as a sort of evil antihero, complete with mangled cape, bloody mask, and Freddy Krueger-style bladed gloves.
Unfortunately, Demonic has the displeasure of following Image Comics’ release of Ed Brubaker’s Kill or Be Killed, a comic with an insanely similar premise that was released just a couple of weeks before Sebela’s series. It wouldn’t be so bad if Demonic #1 could step away from those ideas, and in truth the end of this issue does seem to head in a different direction than Kill or Be Killed‘s first issue; but the fact remains that Sebela’s premiere doesn’t hold up to scrutiny, especially when compared to Brubaker’s story.
That’s because Demonic #1 is filled to the brim with expositional dialogue, a convenience that Sebela relies on throughout the issue. Walter and Brown attempt to fill the frames with some inspirational artwork, especially when main character Scott Graves is in the presence of the demonic entity or anyone associated with it – there are small interruptions of imagery, like flies or photographs, that help to add some plot development that doesn’t involve the characters discussing it outright, but it’s not enough to help what becomes an overburdened script.
Sebela’s doing a lot of setup in this first issue, and for a six-issue series, it makes sense for the plot to move rather swiftly in this introduction to Demonic. However, the execution isn’t deft; there are a lot of moments where characters are simply throwing out plot details as the comic progresses, rather than Sebela exploring them organically. Demonic #1 moves from an initial police investigation to a murder to Graves spending time in the hospital with his dying daughter all in one fell swoop, leaving little space for Sebela to explore development before the next event occurs. One would hope that the series would throw Graves into this predicament with the demon and then explore how it affects his life, but instead Sebela is hoping that the reader has already gleaned enough character traits from Graves to be invested in the plot.
That’s not the case, though, and too often Graves feels like a character trope rather than a real person. He’s a hardboiled detective who sometimes makes bad decisions; he’s got a female partner, and he’s had a fling with her behind his wife’s back (at one point, his partner elicits a groan-worthy piece of dialogue: “It’s not like it’s the worst secret we have between us.”); he’s unswayed by corruption, an unfailing sense of right and wrong. It’s hard to get a feel for Graves because he’s such a conventional protagonist, the kind of person we’ve seen hundreds of times in stories just like this one – I’m thinking The Black Hood from Dark Circle Comics primarily, since that’s basically where Demonic goes once Graves is sucked into this hellish new lifestyle.
Because of course Graves decides to save his daughter from a mysterious illness, siding with the demons and donning his creepy mask and claws to kill whomever the demon wishes. At this point, Graves can’t even die; he gets shot by some gangbangers and comes back anyway. While Demonic‘s supervillain aspect is interesting, it’s entirely generic in this first issue, and I can’t even say that issue #1’s concluding panel is enough to get readers to come back: there’s just a threat that the demon is playing Graves, toying with him to eventually ruin his life.
Walter and Brown’s artwork is rather good, too, featuring hardboiled gritty imagery and lots of well-crafted violence, along with imaginative use of paneling. As Graves ventures out into the world to kill, Walter and Brown give the reader convoluted full-page layouts to show the spiraling madness that he faces. It’s a nice showing from the two, but it’s unfortunate that Sebela’s script can’t capitalize on the artwork.
Sebela has five more issues to craft Demonic into something a bit less generic than what this first issue has provided, and it’s entirely possible that the series begins to find its footing in the subsequent issue. Right now, however, Demonic #1 feels like its simply possessing the story of other similar comics, unable to fully embody that spirit.