‘Maxwell’s Demons’: On Depression, Escapism, And The Lonely Road To The Void [Opinion]

Our imagination during childhood is limitless and wonderful. It is not concerned with the day to day responsibilities that plague our adulthood, so its foundation is malleable to the whims of an uncompressed child mind. Unless, like Maxwell, there is a darker and deeper reason for escaping the harsh realities of one’s home life.

Maxwell’s Demons No. 1 follows a young boy named Maxwell who travels to other worlds via his inter-dimensional closet door. He goes with his friends, personified toys that he brought to life, to fend off beasts ravaging nearby worlds, but he’s always wary of the one true terror that haunts all the realms: the Leviathan.

What Deniz Camp, Vittorio Astone, and Aditya Bidikar created together is a story of childhood. One riddled with a constant ominous cloud that hovers over its protagonist. It’s illustrated in Astone’s coloring, both in Maxwell’s home life to other realities, as the shadows and darker palette always overpower the brighter colors of its world. It allows a reader to view the world as Maxwell sees it. There is necessary violence or, at the very least, an anger that burrows deep and explodes verbally or otherwise in the realms he escapes to and at home.

As Astone brings life to Camp’s words, Bidikar guides readers throughout Maxwell’s life. They help readers find their own place on the images, but the choice of color distinguishing Maxwell, Captain Corvus, and the omniscient narrator are utilized for the sake of letting you in on a secret. Something is deeply wrong. They add a sense of urgency and doom, playing off Astone’s art and making for a read that feels heavy, and it never leaves your mind. There is someone to worry about, but we just can’t know who that might be.

Camp’s story grabs what should be a delightful, exciting tale of escapism and turns it on its head. There is no escape for the young boy with his army of toy-friends. He can only find refuge in a world that is terrorized by a seemingly random malignancy. It is a mystery, one that cuts deep into the fabric of our humanity, and it allows us to ask ourselves about our own morality and naivety. When our authoritative figures, such as our parents, can no longer be trusted, we tend to find comfort in people that, at least on the surface, might not be worth that virtue.

The team plays thematically with depression, anger, and fear throughout the book. It’s never an easy day for Maxwell, whether he’s fighting monsters or dealing with his emotionally abusive father. This culminates in a moment where the twist is used to remind readers that people can fall into abusive relationships over and over. The manner in which these relationships are handled is a matter of resilience. It’s a choice that will provide the trajectory for the rest of our lives. We shape our approach to new relationships young and if things do not go well we may retreat into ourselves.

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Our childhoods are malleable much like our imagination and this foundation can shape the rest of our lives. What do we choose in the face of our worst moments? Do we overcome them and be better for it? Or do we lean into that darkness and let it guide our future? The way Camp, Astone, and Bidikar choose to answer these questions as the series continues will be the arbiter of whether this book deserves to be in the Pantheon of great comics like Sandman. Though this first issue proves to be more than the sum of its parts and its promise is one we make with ourselves in the middle of or in the afterglow of our trauma: Do good or spiral into the void.

Maxwell’s Demons No. 1 comes out November 22, 2017. You can read the first ten pages here.

[Featured Image by Vittorio Astone/Vault Comics]