Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Demeter by Becky Cloonan Review

Demeter is the latest addition to Becky Cloonan’s Ink and Thunder series of black and white digital comics and though this is the third in the series, after 2011’s Wolves and 2012’s The Mire, each is a standalone one-shot so even if you haven’t read the previous two, you can still jump straight into Demeter. 

Set in an indeterminate time in the past (definitely pre-Industrial Revolution), Anna and Colin are young lovers living in a small cottage on the coast. Colin is a fisherman and Anna the housekeeper/farmer of their small land, and the two are very much in love (lotta sex!). But a strange figure haunts Anna in the night, looking in through the windows and watching them as they sleep. Anna holds a dark secret at the heart of her seemingly perfect romance, and their idyllic love is anything but…

Cloonan’s Ink and Thunder comics have this wonderful fairy tale quality to them, set in a fantasy land where werewolves, ghosts, and this time, magic and spirits of nature, exist alongside ridiculously beautiful humans. Maybe it’s because of the doomed romance angle and the fact that magic and the sea are central to the tale that I kept thinking Demeter read like a comic Samuel Taylor Coleridge would’ve created if he were a comic book artist today. It’s got a very lyrical narrative tone alongside the haunting imagery that makes it really attractive to read as well as ambiguous in all the right places to keep the story lovely and mysterious. 

Though the comic is 30 pages, it’s peculiarly complex storytelling structure where Cloonan leaps about at different points in the story and leaves on an ambiguous, open-ended note means that this is a comic you’ll want to flick back and re-read to tease out its puzzling meaning. And, like all of the Ink and Thunder series, Demeter is available only digitally though the price is far cheaper than most digital comics, longer too at 30 pages compared to 22, and of a much higher quality, so it’s excellent value for money. 

Cloonan’s art is absolutely gorgeous, there’s no other description for it. I love her mainstream work on books like Batman, Killjoys, and, most recently, Harley Quinn #0, but her art in her own comics is the best it is and is so good, it’s unreal. Her manga influences are still there in her human characters’ faces, but her layouts and designs are distinctly her own. There are fantastical elements to the comic, and they look amazing, but even domestic scenes are rendered in breath-taking ways. 

Demeter is another triumph for Becky Cloonan and a fine addition to her amazing series. Wonderful art coupled with a haunting tale of love, lost and found, Demeter is a brilliant fantasy/romance/supernatural/Cloonan comic, well worth a read.

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