Peach Momoko is a talented Japanese cartoonist who has created many manga-influenced, watercolor comic book covers for Marvel and other publishers. She makes both her writing and interior art debut for Marvel in Demon Days: X-Men #1 where she puts her own spin on Marvel heavy hitters like Psylocke, Wolverine, Jubilee, Venom, and Hulk while placing them in the context of Japanese folklore and yokai stories. She transposes the conflict between humans hating and fearing mutants to humans hating and fearing the oni, like Hulk-maru, whose trees have been cut down so they have to raid the human village to get food for their children. What follows is a fairly simple story about humans and oni putting aside their differences to fight a larger threat, Orochi, or Venom with some fun takes on Marvel characters. For example, Jubilee is now a lazy sorcerer named Juju, and Logan is a wolf instead of a short, hairy mutant.
But the fighting is where Demon Days: X-Men starts to unravel. Momoko has many strengths as an artist, including an eye for design, cool poses, and the ability to match a color palette to a mood. She’s also good at setting a scene like the oni’s forest, Venom’s sanctuary, or the village where Sai (Demon Days’ Psylocke) and Logan travel to and offer their services as a sell-sword. However, choreographing and laying out a fight scene isn’t her strong suit, which is unfortunate because the majority with little interstitials of negotiations between Sai and the oni, various planning (Coaxing in Juju’s case.) sessions, and the ending of the book, which shows that maybe Momoko is better at slice of life than magical/sword slashing/symbiote action.
In brief, the battle between Venom and the villager/oni alliance is hard to follow with Peach Momoko switching up perspective and angles on a dime. It’s kind of like the comic book equivalent of the dreaded “shaky cam” even if it’s cool to see Sai fight gracefully with a katana, or Juju set off fireworks everywhere. Momoko sets up the condition that the oni and humans have to work together to defeat Venom, but there’s no magical weakness or fairy tale comeuppance just hacking, slashing, biting, and smashing until the yokai dissipates. It reads like “mandatory fight scene”, and apparently Logan loses his eye. However, you don’t see this until some post-fight dialogue where Momoko throws an obvious reference to his healing factor. The dynamic between him and Sai as well as the young girl Tsuki is really fun as both a nod to their relationship in the comics as well as a riff on Lone Wolf and Cub with a literal animal.
Demon Days: X-Men #1 has some cool designs (Juju’s was my favorite), fun character interactions, and the story and backmatter are a great introduction to Japanese folklore and yokai stories via American pop culture. However, Peach Momoko’s plotting is predictable, and she is better at drawing landscapes and conversations than fight scenes. But the comic isn’t a total wash, and it’s nice to see an artist whose style is a far cry from most of the “house style” Marvel books get to put her own imprint on iconic characters. Also, the final pages are damn good and made me interested in the nature of this universe that Momoko has created.
Story: Peach Momoko Art: Peach Momoko
English Adaptation: Zack Davisson Letters: Ariana Maher
Story: 7.0 Art: 8.0 Overall: 7.5 Recommendation: Read
Marvel Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review