“It occurred to me, around the time the beasts came for me again, to watch the storms, to try to read the signs they brought from the wider universe.” So the mystical Merlin tells our hero Shining Knight in a magical vision brought about in the heat of battle. If his particular choice of words strikes you as worth noting, it should. Though the cover of Demon Knights #4 purports to give us the origin of Shining Knight (and it does!), this issue also seems to read as a prologue to writer Paul Cornell’s other series in the New 52, the black-ops superhero book Stormwatch. Even the very title of this issue recalls that other book; “Merlin Watches the Storm.”
Consider, too, the character of Merlin, who quickly in this issue explains “I live backwards! I started old. I’m getting younger!” That also describes Stormwatch’s erratic leader, Adam One, and the similarities don’t stop there — facial expressions, tone of voice and even hair styles (though not color) align. Is Stormwatch really led by Merlin? If so, that blows my mind; I need to go back and reread the first four issues for any clues to that I may have missed.
If this is all connected, then (as seems likely), I was wrong in my review last month to suggest that Demon Knights feels like it exists on its own amongst all of DC’s new books. Rather, it seems to just be taking a slow-burn approach to making its place in the wider DCU known. Besides the Stormwatch stuff, there are even vague references to the Fall of Camelot that could be construed to connect to Grant Morrison’s Seven Soldiers miniseries, though they also might have nothing to do with it — I’m fine with that vagueness as long as it lets me use my imagination.
Even as a stand-alone unit, though, this issue of Demon Knights is probably my favorite so far. I’ve mentioned before that I like Cornell’s use of Shining Knight, an obviously cross-dressing character that everyone knows is a woman despite her insistence otherwise. It’s always a delight when writers double down with a character’s surprises, hiding a more substantial twist behind an obvious one, so when the issue reveals the true nature of Shining Knight, it’s far more interesting than I would have guessed at the start of this series. But Cornell doesn’t stop there; he triples down with a second-to-last-page reveal about the character that sheds a whole new light on all four issues of this series. It’s really fascinating, and it not only brings great depth to the character but also a fantastic layer of suspense and irony to the series as a whole.
I’ve been a little down on regular series artist Diogenes Neves, and my hesitance continues here; his faces are just too cartoony to convey the tone this book seems to be going for. Fortunately, all of the Shining Knight/Merlin dream sequences — most of the book — are penciled and inked by Michael Choi, a former Top Cow artist. I’m not familiar with his previous work, but he knocks it out of the part here. His pages are beautiful, and they show off the level of detail necessary for such heavy classical material. Marcelo Maiolo’s colors in that sequence also shine. Those pages are the best the book has ever looked, and I hope Choi comes back again soon. If he can’t, though, I’m happy to see DC finding such a potent use for a fill-in artist. Even if I don’t really like Neves’ art, I appreciate consistency, and I’m glad he could bow out for most of an issue without it feeling jarring. Credit for that also goes to Paul Cornell for writing an issue that both sidesteps the main plot and continues it while enriching the universe he’s building around these characters.
Though my interest in this series had waned after the last two issues, Demon Knights #4 has picked it right back up again. I’m really interested to see what comes next, especially given the revelations about Shining Knight found in this issue. I’ll also be reading Stormwatch a little more carefully….
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