It’s astonishing how quickly a series of books can be released when you’ve got all the pages done. Case in point: Jason Shiga’s Demon wrapped its online run about the time its first volume made it to these shores some six months ago. Two months later it released to comics shops and bookstores, and today is the release of Demon, volume two (of four). Thanks to Gina Gagliano at :01 Books, who sent me a review copy, we can talk about Shiga’s latest book.
It’s really fun, you guys. And more than a little disturbing in a way that makes sociopathy downright fun.
For those of you that didn’t read the first one, a quick recap (which Shiga accomplishes in 25 quick panels): Jimmy Yee is a demon. He can’t die; when events occur that would end the life of an ordinary person, his consciousness hops into the nearest person and he takes over their life. This is both very inconvenient (as he’s very much trying to die, having lost his wife and daughter to a drunk driver, and failed in his plan for revenge) and puzzling (he didn’t know he was a demon before the first suicide attempt), and he’s trying to both figure out his situation and stay out the of the clutches of the OSS, who want to use him for their own purposes. But they didn’t count on the smarts and amorality of a man who’s willing to repeatedly kill himself by any means necessary to possess his way out of his current situation.
That’s right, they tried to out-think an actuary.
Now (and here ends the recap of volume 1, so spoilers ahoy for volume 2) Jimmy’s pieced together enough of his powers to come to a logical conclusion: all he has to do is outlive his adversaries. Couple of possessions of random folk, lie low, wait 75 years or so and BAM! Victory. After his revenge on the man that killed his family, that is. Jimmy Yee (mild-mannered actuary pushed to the edge) may have been thwarted, but Jimmy Yee (demon) is pretty well unstoppable.
There’s just one thing he hadn’t counted on: demonism is hereditary and his daughter, Sweetpea, isn’t dead. She’s in the body of her killer. Then there’s another: the OSS figures it out, and also figures that a quiet guy with no interests beyond being an actuary will do anything for his remaining family, and they’ve got her. They want to use Jimmy (and undoubtedly Sweetpea as well, once she’s grown) to impose a new order on the world, and the only way out from under their extremely well-planned thumb is to kill a whole buttload of people that he either actively hates or has never met and cares nothing for. To be honest, it’s probably more the latter.
Yeah, Jimmy’s a lot smart, a lot ruthless, and more than a teeny bit amoral; every single person in that buttload has hopes and dreams and Jimmy absolutely does not care that possessing and then discarding each of them in favor of the next one is no different than murder¹. And that’s just the ones he possesses — there’s going to be a bunch he just straight up kills because they’re in his way, or wrong place/wrong time. Getting out from under the OSS’s thumb is going to easily triple the size of the buttload and Jimmy is going to sleep like a baby at the far end of it. Jimmy and Sweetpea could get to see the end of the species (if not the planet, or the universe) if they’re just a little bit careful and that’s the improbably happy note the book ends on, 90 years in the future, free and clear.
There’s still two more books, and Shiga’s not likely to spend them all on a flashback of how Jimmy spent the intervening time because there’s no stakes in that story. But there is one dangling thread, one danger that Jimmy has certainly not overlooked — there’s one other person knows about demons. The inventor of the demonizing process used it on himself and killed multiple buttloads of people making his escape back in the ’40s. Since then he’s made himself absolute ruler of a South Asian petrostate, and he certainly knows the one way to kill a demon is to make it impossible to possess anybody at death by having another demon be the nearest person. With one demon in the world, you’re functionally immortal²; with more than one there is a threat out there, somewhere, that you can’t ignore. July will bring volume 3 and November volume 4, in which we’ll learn just how much one man³ with one power can reshape the world into his own image.
In the meantime, enjoy Demon volume 2 (and pick up volume 1 while you’re at it) — it’s smart, tight, fun, and a bit disturbing once you realize just how bloody the hands of the hero (who you’re rooting for) have become. Somewhere, Jason Shiga is smiling as we enjoy the story, and that smile is just a little too wide and filled with teeth.
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¹ Informed that his body count is up to 287 men, women, and children, Jimmy is utterly unaffected
² Which brings up an interesting situation — if Jimmy and/or Sweetpea ever tires of immortality, either one just has to commit suicide near the other to be actually dead-dead. But the remaining one? No way to die, ever. That’s gonna get lonely.
³ More precisely, two men and by then one woman, all more than a century old and with varying degrees of desire for all that life offers. But Jimmy’s clearly our protagonist, so let’s just go with one man.