Kill 6 Billion Demons vol.1 TPB – Tom Parkinson-Morgan

3 out of 5

Insanely creative.  Insanely confusing.  Maybe also just plain insane.

Although I still can’t adjust to a digital reading model and so prefer to experience we comics when/if they’re re-presented in print form – a la Image’s collection of the first book of this title – K6BD is really the first example of a strip that I can see as benefiting from the format.  And not really in its look, as Tom Parkinson-Morgan designs stuffed border to border in a way that feels somewhat hemmed-in by the story-page-at-a-time limitations of the medium, but in its story’s construction.  This Age of Immediacy has led to / bred a culture that hops online to review and discuss within seconds of (or sometimes during) experiencing something, which has pushed creators who’ve been aging during that same era to evolve their styles to be very  precise and/or long-game; dangling plots that are dropped in without apparent thought are dissected and trashed immediately.  There are pluses and minuses of this shift, which are certainly a longer conversation, but the type of world-building it encourages (and that online communities further on their own) can be said to have opened the doors for something like Kill, which arrives with mythology in tow, and flip-flops the presentation by going deep into that mythology before, at the end of this first volume, finally giving its story direction.

So: reading this collection page by page, I imagine it as a web comic, where you can enter the conversation about WTF each week (or whatever the periodization was), and then pick up cues from Parkinson-Morgan to add to the back story via its in-world religious tome (pages of which separate sections of the trade, although I haven’t checked how they were implemented online), from which, furthermore, the creator may springboard his own ideas.  This would see to keep the spirit of the strip’s creation alive, as it began in the forums of another webcomic.  And pardon my history here for inaccuracies, but the point remains: There’s a big community element to this series, and that is the purest use of the online format, way beyond zippy panel transitions.

But back to the present, and to the print edition.  Allison is about to lose her virginity when some crazy demon looking thing pops into her room, zaps her and her boyfriend, and she wakes up in a crazy-ass different dimension with what turns out to be an angel and is otherwise stuffed to the gills with nightmares from the excessively-detailed and inventive worlds of James Stokoe and Brandon Graham.  Thereafter follows 90 pages of Allison being dragged through the dimension and force fed the mythology (its much more fascinatingly designed than talking heads, though it does still amount to info dumps) before being dumped back home at the end if the volume with a mission: Kill 6 Billion Demons and rescue her boyfriend.  That’s a whole trade of buildup to get to a point, which simply wouldn’t happen (usually) in a designed-for-print format.  The writing and visuals are exciting enough to keep you going, and Allison is just as perplexed as we are (or at least as I was), but it’s still a very steep climb to do alone, and I found myself rereading pages more than once to even get a simple grounding.

Years on, if I’m still reading, this background will be peanuts, and again, I do sort of admire the clear line in the sand of this being a new approach to the comic experience.  For now, though, I’m an old fogey, and if I didn’t find the look and general vibe of 6B appealing, it would’ve been easy to check out on reading.

Parkinson-Morgan’s work, though with an influence of the guys mentioned, is definitely his own thing, a blend of manga expressionism with an indie looseness, and an endless supply of ghoulies who (in a positive way) remind me James Harren’s wonderful creations in Rumble, but shifted to the sensibilities of this strip.  However, the paneling isn’t built for a book, with way too much happening on a page to sometimes properly direct the eye; things get lost in the spine and the surreal bent in things makes the off-panel word-bubble speaker an element of confusion rather often.  But I’m still here, which means the travel – rough to those without expectations – overall feels worth it.  And leaves me looking forward to a volume 2 when I can come with some of my prep work already done.