In my review of Demon Knights #1 last month, I made one simple request: that Vandal Savage, the immortal, ferocious and proud conqueror of the DC Universe, didn’t turn into Gimli from The Lord of the Rings. Sadly, that was not to be.
Responding to what I can only assume is a fairly common criticism, Demon Knights writer Paul Cornell took to Twitter to note how upset he was getting about fans saying “things were this way, and you should know this about a character.” Cornell holds dear the mantra of the New 52, where anything’s fair game and no prior knowledge is required. Fair enough; he’s technically right, but this characterization still bothers me, and I think I have a legitimate reason why it does so. Savage was a pretty one-of-a-kind, compelling guy; how many other characters just like him existed? Now he’s basically just a type, a doofus and an oaf who likes to eat, drink and hit stuff. His only similarities to the character that’s been called Vandal Savage for decades seem to be his name and his stature.
When adapting a character, I have what I call a “one sentence rule”: distill everything special about a character into one sentence, which then must survive any good adaptation. This version of Vandal Savage breaks that rule pretty solidly. I suppose you could argue that in Demon Knights‘ time period he’s just going through some kind of party animal phase, but does that really sound like a good excuse?
It’s a nit-picky point, of course, but I think it’s worth discussing. Of all the characters that will eventually comprise the team in Demon Knights, there are only two with whom I’m especially familiar (thanks more to DC animated shows than the comics), and Savage is the only one of them who’s made a total 180. So many of the rebooted characters work because they’re based off of the general knowledge we have of them; Aquaman’s a fantastic example of that. I think enough casual fans would know who Vandal Savage is to know that this representation doesn’t work, and yeah, that’s a problem for me, especially when he’s been made less special, not more.
Now, outside of that, what Cornell and artist Diogenes Neves are doing with Demon Knights is pretty interesting, though I think the second issue drops off in quality from the first. Here, our erstwhile team of seven fight off a “dragon” (dinosaur) attack after a friendly village is targeted by the villainous Mordru and his queen. The issue’s basically two bestial battles with a bit of a breather in the middle, and it keeps up the fast fantasy adventure laid out by Cornell in the book’s first installment.
I have to say, I think Neves is a strong artist with a great grasp of fight choreography and panel blocking, but I’m not sure he’s the right guy for the job here. So many of his characters just look goofy all the time. While Demon Knights has its funny moments, I don’t know how lighthearted, not-super-detailed pencils complement its overall tone. I would really like to see how a darker artist with thicker pencil lines and more detailed panels would do with the book; I think Tony Daniel does an admirable job with its covers, for instance.
I’m enjoying the scenario Cornell’s set up with the other six members of his team here, although I do wish they’d assemble just a little quicker. I’m most interested in the newer characters, like Al Jabr (the Eastern Tony Stark) and Exoristos, an Amazonian warrior. Their brief page time has been tantalizing, and I eagerly look forward to getting to know these two better. And I can’t forget the mysterious Horsewoman, undoubtedly the team’s seventh member, who’s been in about four panels so far. There’s got to be a great story behind her, since Cornell seems so keen on using her very sparingly at the moment.
Overall Demon Knights is okay, but I’ve definitely lost a little love for it between issues, and not just because of the Vandal Savage issue. With enough time and good writing I’ll notice Savage less, but right now that annoyance only amplifies other issues I have with the book. Cornell’s a good enough writer that he’s sure to deliver some interesting stuff, but I’m going to have to reassess things at the end of the first story arc and see if it’s interesting enough for me to keep reading.
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