How do you like your webcomics? I like mine full of science fiction, fantasy, demons, and gorgeous artwork! AVA’S DEMON is a webcomic famous for its gorgeous painted artwork and animations. Michelle Czajkowski first published the webcomic in 2012. She is singlehandedly responsible for the development of the whole project, from plot to art to animation. The way she tells her story is patently beautiful: she uses single-panel pages, and each one is gorgeous and expressive. Czajkowski often creates striking demonic, religious, and sensual images that serve as mindblowing metaphors for what’s happening in the story.
The Story So Far…
AVA’S DEMON takes place in a universe where science is incredibly advanced. People can travel between planets pretty easily, medical technology is super advanced, and certain creatures have god-like powers. The story begins with Ava Ire, a troubled 15-year-old girl with a literal demon tormenting her. At first, she believes the demon is a hallucination trying to get her to commit suicide. Eventually, Ava discovers that the demon is actually a real person, and her name is Wrathia Bellarmina.
Wrathia was the powerful queen presiding over hundreds of galaxies. Suddenly, a being called “Titan” took over her empire and demanded her surrender. Instead of surrendering, Wrathia made several bottles of cursed wine that would attach her and her strongest soldiers’ souls to the next being that was born. She had hoped that she would be born with a creature stronger than her, but ended up connected with Ava. She tried to get Ava to form a pact so they could complete Wrathia’s mission of defeating Titan, but Ava ignored her.
When Ava ignored her, Wrathia tried to ruin Ava’s life and get her to commit suicide. Soon, Ava actually does end up “dying” after falling out of a crashing spaceship. After Wrathia explains things, Ava agrees to the pact so she can have a second chance at life. Afterwards, she reconvenes with the other characters (Gil Marverde, Maggie Lacivi, and Odin Arrow) and they go to a Titan recruitment base.
After Ava was cornered and almost brainwashed by Titan followers, she drank a potion from Wrathia. With it, she transformed into a more powerful being of rage and violence. After wreaking havoc on the recruitment center, Ava passes out. In her mind, she talks with Wrathia and finds out Wrathia tricked her.
The being Titan is the first obvious thematic and visual metaphor in the story. While Wrathia first introduces him as a conqueror, the reader gets to know more about him through Gil Marverde. Gil is a follower of Titan. Followers saved him from dying. As the character Maggie Lacivi tries to flirt with him, he shows her a book explaining Titan’s origins. This book is almost a direct parallel to the Christian Bible. Plus, Titan himself along with his devoted followers are parallels to any significant monotheistic religion in our time. The manual shows the origin story of Titan, a godlike being with omniscient and omnipotent powers.
Czajkowski paints Titan as a similarly lofty and distant God. The reader is supposed to doubt his goodness, especially when Gil is so confident in it. We know that, in this story, Titan is a real being, since Wrathia fought with him. However, we also know that he’s not trustworthy. Czajkowski uses parallels between Titan, religious devotion, and agnostic doubt as metaphors that reference real internal religious debate to bring more authority and familiarity to the story.
Ava’s Second “Resurrection”
Moving on to Czajkowski’s more recent uses of symbolism and imagery, let’s take a look at Ava’s second “resurrection” scene. Wrathia first resurrected Ava in the beginning of the story after she fell on a spike and died. By making a pact with Wrathia, her body transformed from a normal human one to a sort of lava demon person, still in the shape of a human. After almost dying a second time, Ava took the potion Wrathia gave to her in order to gain the power to protect herself.
Inside their joint mind, Wrathia explains the real effects of the potion. In the first place, Wrathia and Ava’s souls are connected because of Wrathia’s initial cursed wine. Then, they entered into a pact (will full demonic implications) that connected their souls and minds. Essentially, they are one being. Now, Ava has taken another “curse” that will further their pact. This curse transformed Ava physically, giving her the power and personality to destroy whatever she wanted.
During this explanation, poppy flowers begin to spread all over Ava and even sprout out of her throat. Since this is happening in her mind, it has clear metaphorical implications. Typically, poppies represent sleep, peace, and death. In Classical Mythology, they also represent resurrection after death. This scene not only takes place while Ava is sleeping, but the poppies sprouting definitely imply a second “rebirth” for Ava. The first time she transformed, she had actually died. Here, it’s a little more metaphorical. In this case, Ava’s old self is dying a second time as she gets deeper into the pact and mission she needs to complete for Wrathia (and technically herself).
At first, when Ava talks with Wrathia, Czajkowski paints Ava and Wrathia in a very intimate way. The two of them embrace, holding each other tenderly as Ava remembers how powerful she felt. According to Czajkowski’s tweet from the official Ava’s Demon account, the sexual imagery is meant to show that “she is momentarily falling in love with her inner self.” At this point, Ava and Wrathia are essentially the same person, if not in the process of melding into one. The intimate, almost uncomfortable sensual artwork here shows that Ava is unhealthily beginning to embrace careless, unbridled rage and power.
Still, Ava retains some of her own identity in this. After she realizes that the potion was not just a momentary power boost, the images shift towards more “sinful” imagery. In their mind, Wrathia transforms into a red and yellow snake. She crawls across a tree that’s full of ripe fruit. This is a direct allusion to the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Bible. In this scenario, Wrathia (the snake and temptress) has already tricked Ava into “eating the fruit” a.k.a drinking the potion.
Like humans gained knowledge of morality, Ava gained superior power. However, through this imagery, Czajkowski implies it will poison her in some way. Or, the images here could be in place primarily to highlight the fact that Wrathia continuously is tricking Ava into falling deeper and deeper into her plans. Either way, Czajkowski creates a very striking image by referencing one of the most poignant scenes in the bible.
AVA’S DEMON as Visual Literature
AVA’S DEMON is already quite different from most webcomics since Czajkowski sticks with one-panel pages. The webcomic is also different since each page is almost like a self-contained painting. The panels show a specific meaning through visual metaphors or references. In this way, AVA’S DEMON is almost like visual literature; the comic pays close attention to detail and the references it makes. A lot of great written works use religious references just like Czajkowski does.
Since Czajkowski can use this place in Ava and Wrathia’s mind, she can create metaphorical paintings that readers won’t misunderstand as things actually happening in the plot. The readers will understand that what happens in the characters’ minds is a representation of how they understand the situation. This is a really clever storytelling method, and one pretty unique, or at least specialized, in AVA’S DEMON. Readers can definitely expect even more compelling and beautiful images in the near future!