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
My Best of 2012 Playlist by Eric Garneau
After being inspired by some friends, for the past few years I’ve been really into documenting my musical exploration with year-end mixes. I realize this is not a particularly novel thing to do, but hey, who has original ideas any more? Anyway, this has gotten even easier to do thanks to new technology like Spotify. read more