If you ever wondered what would happen if DC Comics decided to create a sword and sorcery tale that feels very much like a certain game campaign that you and your friends played on a weekly basis, then you are going to LOVE Demon Knights.

DEMON KNIGHTS #1
Writer: Paul Cornell
Penciller: Diogenes Neves
Inker: Oclair Albert
Colorist: Marcelo Maiolo
Letterer: Jared K. Fletcher
Editor: Matt Idelson
Cover: Tony Daniel and Tomeu Morey
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover Price: $2.99

Previously in Demon Knights: Well, there really hasn’t been any major tales set in this time period featuring all of these characters, so this is all new and all fresh… unless you play Dungeons and Dragons.

 

SEVEN CHARACTERS IN SEARCH OF AN ADVENTURE

If you are going to set a story in a fantasy dark age, there is going to be more than a passing resemblance to role playing games. Instead of trying to reject the trope, Paul Cornell takes the ball and runs with it, throwing in everything from dragons and an evil witch taking over the lands, to the central characters meeting in a tavern. The overall plot pretty much follows that path; we are introduced to the characters one at a time, and readers learn that Morgaine le Fay and Mordru (Yes… THAT Mordru) are making their way across the land, killing and conquering wherever they go. Cornell gives readers just enough information to set up the world and its inhabitants, and that is exactly what a first issue needs.

And what a mix of characters Cornell is serving up in what has become an odd Seven Soldiers of Victory:

Jason Blood/Etrigan (The Rogue)
As DC continues to give us a different look at their universe, some character’s origins are changed, others are tweaked, and some are brand new. For Etrigan, the Demon, the base origin remains in tact as Merlin binds Belial to Jason Blood. Blood is able to change between demon and man, with each having no idea what the other has done or is doing. This is really important because Jason’s traveling companion/lover in this tale is none other than…

Madame Xanadu (The Sorceress)
Another immortal, Madame Xanadu travels with Jason across the lands as they seek “something” (maybe adventure?), but it seems like trouble is always following the two. I like the play between the two characters. It looks like they have a fun time teasing one another, and there appears to be the hint of true love, but the real interesting twist arrives when Jason turns into Etrigan, and readers learn that Xanadu and Etrigan get it on… a lot. AND Xanadu prefers Etrigan over Jason. It’s a weird love triangle that Cornell needs to explore further, and I can’t wait to see how that plays out.

Vandal Savage (The Barbarian)
I didn’t expect to see the Vandal Savage appear in the story, and was even more surprised that he wasn’t the big bad in the tale. Instead, he’s the barbarian character that Xanadu and Blood have encountered several times over the ages. I like that Cornell doesn’t skip on the immortal aspect of these first three characters and their previous run-ins with each other. It’s been 90 years since the three have met, and since there is currently no reason to quarrel, the three sit down for a pint at a local tavern to share stories.

The Shining Knight (The Knight… duh)
When the tales begin to be told, The Shining Knight makes his/her appearance. Sir Ystin introduces himself, but it is clear to the reader that the hero looks more female than male in this incarnation – something that all of the characters notice as well. While I think the Sir Justin version of The Shining Knight is more recognizable due to his appearances in Justice League Unlimited, Cornell’s decision to use Grant Morrison’s take on the character (Ystina) from the Seven Soldiers miniseries is another interesting twist in the story, and I like it.

Al Jabr (get it? Algebra…The Thief? The Bard?)
A new character that that is new to the DCU, Al Jabr should provide some character diversity in this series. It’s pretty clear from his clothing that he is from the Middle East, and combined with the “We don’t serve your kind here” comment made by the barkeep already has a few feathers ruffled across the Intardwebz. All I can say is he is a new character, and until he gets more speaking lines (he only has three and a half lines), I’m going to hold of any judgements.

Exoristos (The Warrior)
Long before Princess Diana got off the island, Amazonian warriors were roaming the lands – at least in this version of the DCU. Again, we don’t learn much about Exoristos except she has a bad temper, is willing to start a fight, and doesn’t care for men all that much.

Even though we get little to no character growth in the initial introductions, I’m loving these characters so far. Even with Al Jabr’s three lines, I like him.

SIGN THAT MAN TO AN EXCLUSIVE

Wow. The art in this issue is fantastic. Diogenes Neves serves up panel after panel of imagery that is so detailed, it takes longer to read this issue than others because you are sucked into the world. (Mystery Woman – page 7) I hope he can keep up the pace, because I want to see this level of art throughout the long long run this series is sure to have.

WHAT’S NOT TO LIKE?

While Cornell does a great job of telling us a story, and Neves serves up the art to us in a spectacular way, the one thing I found most frustrating was the way dialogue was broken –

up through –

three or –

four word –

balloons.

Yes. It was THAT annoying. I can understand dialogue spilling over and serving as a bridge between locations and scenes, but to have small balloons that break up the flow of the words was just off for me.

BOTTOM LINE: BEST OF THE WEEK

When Demon Knights was first announced, I was hooked by the promise of Etrigan being front and center. After the initial announcement, I pretty much shut my mind off from news of other characters and general setup, so when I did sit down to read the issue, I was completely drawn in and had a blast with everything from beginning to end. Demon Knights #1 has a great story hook, fantastic art, a great cast of characters, and that questing adventure feel that makes this a book that can’t be missed. Pick up Demon Knights #1 before it is too late. It’s a fantastic read and earns 5 out of 5 Stars.

Rating: ★★★★★

The Author

Stephen Schleicher

Stephen Schleicher

Stephen Schleicher began his career writing for the Digital Media Online community of sites, including Digital Producer and Creative Mac covering all aspects of the digital content creation industry. He then moved on to consumer technology, and began the Coolness Roundup podcast. A writing fool, Stephen has freelanced for Sci-Fi Channel's Technology Blog, and Gizmodo. Still longing for the good ol' days, Stephen launched Major Spoilers in July 2006, because he is a glutton for punishment.

You can follow him on Twitter @MajorSpoilers and tell him your darkest secrets...

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12 Comments

  1. Jimmy
    September 16, 2011 at 3:09 pm — Reply

    I’ve been predicting Demon Knights would be the sleeper hit of the relaunch, but for some reason almost didn’t pick up a copy at my LCS the other day. I did on a lark, and holy crap am I glad I did. I loved everything about this issue; I’ve been familiar w/Diogenes Neves from Green Arrow, and he is really at his best with medieval-style swords and sorcery. I’m a bit bummed that we’re apparently getting a guest artist for issue #4, but hopefully they’ll be good.

    I’m glad you liked this issue as much as I did; definitely my favorite book of the week, maybe even of the relaunch so far.

  2. MarkW
    September 16, 2011 at 4:42 pm — Reply

    Totally agree with Stephen’s take. I can’t say I enjoyed it more than Action #1, but it was easily a five star book IMO. Loved the bit with Xanadu “cheating” on Jason with Etrigan. The only disappointment was that he chose to use the Morrison version of Shining Knight, but that’s a minor quibble.

    • Jimmy
      September 16, 2011 at 5:19 pm — Reply

      …good point, I can’t say I enjoyed Demon Knights more than Action 1. I think right now Demon Knights stands as my second favorite part of the relaunch then :)
      I need to create an overall tier at some point

      • September 16, 2011 at 6:41 pm — Reply

        I need to create an overall tier at some point

        That statement is exactly why 5 star reviews are so rare from me. :)

  3. JoeM
    September 16, 2011 at 7:06 pm — Reply

    Until I read this review I had no interest in picking this one up. I picked it up because I read this, and I gotta say I agree. This was worth it and I think I’m adding this one to my pull list. Thanks!

  4. September 17, 2011 at 2:23 am — Reply

    I thought Demon knights was great, I would disagree with Stephan regarding the love triangle. I read it as Xanadu being evil and manipulative and saying and doing what she needed to do to control either Etrigan or Jason, I guess we’ll see.

    • Damascus
      September 20, 2011 at 12:35 am — Reply

      Yeah, it could be something like that. It could be as simple as her being a smart enough woman to know how to stroke both of their ego’s enough to keep them happy. And having to deal with people who keep popping up with no clue what’s going on and having to hit the ground running.

      • Damascus
        September 20, 2011 at 12:40 am — Reply

        Plus, when she’s telling Jason that he doesn’t have to summon Etrigan and that couldn’t she have just one quiet pint would lend to her doing what needs done to keep things running smoothly.

  5. kevinpbreen
    September 18, 2011 at 11:36 am — Reply

    The term is Paladin, not Knight. And where’s The Cleric? (Guess immortals don’t need much healing.) I did find the art kind of hard to get into, so I haven’t decided on following this book yet. I don’t care for too many of the DCnU, though. I liked GREEN ARROW and BATWOMAN; ACTION and BATGIRL sound ok but I missed them and waiting for the reorder to come in.

    So far I haven’t seen much reason to stick with the DCnU. I feel lhe titles I do like will probably only last until the next change in writers, or the next Big Event.

  6. Russ Catt
    September 19, 2011 at 1:14 pm — Reply

    I found Madam Xanadu’s inclusion to be interesting.
    I wonder if/how this will tie into her role in Justice League Dark?
    I was pretty happy with this issue.

  7. Damascus
    September 20, 2011 at 12:43 am — Reply

    Wonder who the woman on the horse with the bow is?

  8. brenton8090
    September 24, 2011 at 8:23 am — Reply

    This blew me away. Love the feel of it. They can have my money, I’m sold. Can we get more books in different periods now? Perhaps a WW2 JSA book?

    Also- CASTLE ON TOP OF A DINOSAUR.

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