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If you’re a fan of Clive Barker’s Abarat fantasy series, you’ll love Demon Street.
When a new street suddenly pops into existence, everyone’s response is to block the entrance with trash and ignore the “demon street.” Sep however takes the opportunity to explore… and winds up in a surreal land with very little resemblance to his own. He first meets Essie, a small witch, who introduces him to Raina, another human child. From them, Sep learns about other portals opening all over the human world, and the children disappearing into them. Charged with finding the lost people, Sep and Raina journey to the City, meeting up with several other human children and their Guardians. But ever since venturing down Demon Street, Sep’s dreams are becoming more realistic, and when a nightmare threatens to come to life, it can spell trouble for everyone, humans and demons alike.
Written and drawn by Aliza Layne, the comic is fast-paced and highly charged. While one motif in literature is sending young children into impossible adventures, most authors portray children with adult logic and questions, in short, imbuing a character with child-like qualities, but the mind and actions of adults. Layne’s children remain true to their actual ages. In the space of several pages, Sep crosses into the magical realm, meets several demons, makes a new friend, begins a journey to a city, and is perfectly fine with that. Along the way, the characters do ask questions, but when faced with implausible or just plain crazy situations, they simply accept it. In short, the children do not question why the mountains float, only that in this world it is normal.
One of the joys of reading webcomics is watching an artist’s style evolve. The first ten pages are black and white sketches, drawn with thick lines and little detail. The proportion are slightly off, but add to the charm somewhat, and do eventually even out. Color is soon added, with some details, but it does take until the triple digits pages for Layne’s personal style to finally appear. And the wait is worth it. The outlines thin out, with meticulous details creating a visual feast. The world Layne creates fits in quite well with the writing, showing a world where anything the impossible is the quite standard, but still very much appreciated.
As mentioned above, the webcomic is highly similar to Clive Barker’s young adult series Abarat. The author and illustrator for his books, Barker’s illustrations are actually fantasy oil paintings, around which the story is written. His signature blend of fantastical and horror is more lighthearted, and the same perfect balance is shown here in Demon Street. The art is highly imagined, with striking color and design popping up in unexpected places. The story is tinged with horror elements, but do not detract from the overarching magical-quest motif.
Fitting in with modern views on gender and sexuality, there is a burgeoning same-sex relationship, as well as one character who prefers non-binary distinctions. Similar to the dreamlike landscapes, these are typical and acceptable. Several of the characters are also either non-white or non-American, which lends better diversity to the story. Also worth mentioning is the blooming friendship between Raina and Sep. Sadly, many authors will often force the two main leads to fall in love, or at least underscore their dialogue and actions with romantic subtexts, but Raina and Sep’s chemistry lies strictly in their companionship. And its wonderful to see two children express emotions without the adult restrictions usually in place.
Created in 2015, Demon Street is a wonderful comic that is only getting started. Read about Sep and Raina’s adventures at DemonStreet.com.