Demon Knights #1

Demon Knights #1

B+

I had heard a lot of positive buzz surrounding Demon Knights going into my reading it, and it’s pretty easy to see why. Paul Cornell and Diogenes Neves have turned in a high-action, exciting sword-and-sorcery comic with prominent characters and wide-reaching plots, the likes of which hasn’t really been seen on the stands in awhile, at least not from DC. There’s definitely a place for this kind of book, and if the concept of a medieval adventure starring some of DC’s biggest magical characters appeals to you, I imagine you’ll be satisfied.

There’s a lot to like about this first issue. On the writing side, Cornell does a great job of assembling the book’s eventual hero team piece-by-piece. We start with presumably the two principles, Madame Xanadu and Jason Blood/Etrigan, and slowly meet the rest of our cast, including the Shining Knight, an Eastern inventor and an Amazon-like warrior. We know from the title of the story arc (“Seven Against the Dark”) how many heroes we’ll end up following, and this issue pretty strongly suggests that even perennial DC Comics villain Vandal Savage will end up joining our merry band of adventurers. The culling of the heroic team’s always an important event in these fantasy stories (receiving possibly its ultimate treatment in The Fellowship of the Ring), and it provides a compelling in to this first story arc. I’m also interested in the way this might connect with the rest of the DCU – isn’t Madame Xanadu on Justice League Dark as well? Come to think of it, we’ve always got teams of seven, don’t we. And why did we see the Demon’s team in last week’s Stormwatch, also by Cornell? Hmm….

I quite enjoy Diogenes Neves’ art as well. For some reason I can’t quite put my finger on, he reminds me more of a Marvel artist in the general sense (and not just because he worked on New Mutants last year). It’s especially apparent in the way he draws his villains; they seem to fit in more with Marvel’s excellent S.W.O.R.D. series than anything DC’s put out recently — of course that’s not a bad thing, it’s just my observation. By far my favorite pencilwork here is Neves’ design of Etrigan’s medieval armor. It makes the character look even more imposing than he already is, and frankly, it would make an awesome action figure. It’s clear that Etrigan’s going to be the team’s mystical scrapper, and between his heavy armor and his fire breath he’s definitely a force to be reckoned with.

My one misgiving with this book is that it seems Cornell may be bending what we know of these characters to suit the needs of the book, instead of organically growing the book from his cast. I realize these comics are meant to be new-reader friendly, and I have no problem with their ditching continuity minutiae, but so far almost everything in the New 52 has stayed pretty close to iconic interpretations of the character, or has made it clear that’s where we’re heading (eg: Action Comics). I don’t get that same sense from Demon Knights. I’m especially worried about Vandal Savage, who looks like he’s being set up to play this team’s lovable oaf, the Gimli character. Other than a passing reference to his having no ethics (made in a joke, no less) there’s not really any sign of the proud, monstrous conqueror that’s defined Savage for decades, mostly recently in Cornell’s own excellent run on pre-Grant Morrison Action. Also, it’s a minor and obvious nitpick, but the Demon here doesn’t rhyme. I can look past it, but I much prefer my demons rhyming, thanks.

Demon Knights seems designed for fantasy readers, and if you’re a big fan of Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones or, hell, the old He-Man cartoons, the trappings of this book will draw you in and its DCU cast should intrigue you. I have a few misgivings that could easily be cleared up at the end of the first arc… I just really don’t want to see Vandal Savage become Gimli. Is that too much to ask?

Pull list verdict: KEEP IT… for now

tags: demon knights, diogenes neves, paul cornell, the new 52

  • Kyle G.

    I really enjoyed this issue and look forward to seeing more. The one thing that occured to me after the series started was that it was like reading a Dungeons and Dragons game. You have these drastically different ‘heroes’ that meet in a tavern and are suddenly confronted by evil. And we have a promise of Dragons for the near future. Definitely hope this one keeps going.

  • http://www.facebook.com/alexandraerin Alexandra Erin

    You thought it was a joke? I thought it was a nice look at the sophistication behind his “barbarian” exterior. 

  • Anonymous

    Yeah, good call! It’s very D&D style… which of course makes me think of the Community episode where they play D&D, which makes me happy.

  • Anonymous

    You know, it could definitely go either way. The thing that more makes me think he’s joking is actually Neves’ artwork (he has a big old grin on his face that whole scene), so you could definitely be right. But you have to admit his “I want to be in an inn!” speech does seem a little oafish… not really Savage at his proudest. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/alexandraerin Alexandra Erin

    That line was certainly awkward. On the positive side it is very straightforward in an “Alexander at Gordium” sort of way and I hope they were going for that over “oafish”, but if I had the magic editorial power to alter one panel in the comic book, I’d be rewriting it into something more dignified.

    Between that and him seeming to pine for a more civilized age (“liking ethics in others”), I see Vandal Savage here as a conqueror who sees nothing worth conquering at the moment. Acting like he rules the world and smacking down anyone who poses a challenge is more rewarding than actually ruling the world in the dark ages.But I could be wrong. We have little to go on and I’m letting my optimism and knowledge of previous incarnations of the character fill in the gaps. There’s a lot of room for future issues to disappoint me, and if Vandal Savage does turn out to be nothing more than a savage vandal I will be disappointed.Though there is a split-the-difference option. It’s possible they decided to make some sense of his name by making him several thousand years younger. He’s clearly already an immortal, but if he were born to the Vandal people he might only be a few hundred years old at this point, destined to grow into the character we know. That could be interesting.Either way, I really enjoyed this book. It’s the first reboot book I’m sure I’ll be buying every month. D&D with superheroes and dinosaurs!

  • Anonymous

    Well, I love your guess at the interpretation of Savage here, and I really hope you’re right — I think that “conqueror with nothing to conquer” angle would be really interesting. I see what you mean about his maybe not being actually ancient; the only thing that gives me pause there (sorry to be a continuity nerd) is that, presumably, the events of “Return of Bruce Wayne” still happened, and Vandal Savage is in like most of those issues, from prehistoric times to the future. Of course that’s not concrete evidence — who knows what’s really in or out at DC anymore — but as a Morrison fanatic, I really enjoy that interpretation of the character.

    But yes, Demon Knights is totally enjoyable. If I had to, I would get over my feelings on Savage because I really like the core idea of the book (I’m already mostly over the Demon not rhyming, and that’s something that I never forgive certain writers for!). 

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