Or – “All We’re Missing Is Those Guys From Camelot 3000…”
Paul Cornell has said that the genesis of this project came when he was asked to write a Demon monthly, but wasn’t entirely happy with trying to do Etrigan in modern times. Given how difficult it is to launch a non-superhero title these days, and how hard it is to write something in knightly times without becoming a Tolkienesque epic or the Eye Of Argon, I’m doubly impressed with how good this series has been…
Previously, in Demon Knights: In days of old, when knights were bold (and demonic and immortal and mystical and apparently a woman passing as a man), their battles were more than just fighting the urge to hit the fridge before ‘Wheel Of Fortune.’ These are the dark ages of history a time which Hob Gadling described as full of famine, disease and dung. Etrigan the demon and his flipside Jason Blood have been traveling with Madame Xanadu, fighting dragons and such, and have agglomerated a few hangers-on: Ystina, the Shinining Knight; Vandal Savage, immortal caveman lunatic; a seeming Amazon called Exoristos; mysterious swordsman Al Jabr;
Torq, constable of Moonhold; and a seemingly magical horsewoman called The Horsewoman. (Up next: The Creeping Kid, for my movie, “The Creeping Kid!”) Their fight with the dragon horde has gone less than swimmingly, and Madame Xanadu may have to pay the cost…
WHODATHOUGHT ETRIGAN WOULD WORK AS THE LEAD?
The story starts with a magical maguffin that seals our “heroes” in a small village, but gives them only a short time before the shield will fall and their attackers get in. It’s a very Spaghetti Western premise, as the seven magnificent something-or-others are forced to deal with one another in a confined space. I’m a bit confused about the identity of their opponents (other than “they’re the bad guys”) but the interplay between the characters is lovely to see. Etrigan burns a cleric who irritates him, Al Jabr is amused that anyone thinks him a sorcerer, Exoristos clucks her tongue in disapproval of Madame Xanadu’s manipulation of both Blood and Etrigan, while Ystina maintains her false gender no matter what the evidence to the contrary is. In the previous two issues, Cornell has set up an interesting premise, and this issue seems designed to build the tension and give us some character illumination before the battle starts again, but I find that I enjoyed this one a bit less than previous issues. It seems like there’s a lot of talking, a lot of posturing, and a bit too little of the awesomeness that was issue #1.
VANDAL SAVAGE IS A HOOT.
Of course, Exoristos is a lot of fun throughout the issue, acting heroically and snarking where necessary, but the real spotlight falls on Vandal Savage, who tries to rally the townspeople behind him in a particularly manipulative fashion. I was even surprised as how sophisticated his methods were, and every word out of his mouth sounds in my head with the voice of ‘Batman: The Brave & The Bold’ Aquaman (and that’s a good thing.) Tellingly, the evil witch queen is more worried about Savage than any other character, and the story ends with a particularly awful bit of Dark Age savagery by the leader of The Horde. I don’t want to go into detail, but let’s just say that William Gaines couldn’t justify this particular action in front of a Congressional inquiry in the 50’s, so I was a little shocked to see it done on panel here. The art is excellent throughout, reminding me in places of Howard Porter’s work on the revamped 90’s JLA, and in others of John Romita. Cornell’s Magnificent Seven (or so) have a hard row to hoe before them, but I expect it’s going to be an entertaining ride.
THE VERDICT: J. L. AD&D
Overall, this issue wasn’t quite as good as #1, but still a good comic, and I have to applaud any attempt to launch a non-hero title (even if this is still sorta kinda a hero title.) Swords and sorcery has as many limitations and tropes as the standard superhero story, but they haven’t been plumbed as thoroughly in mainstream comics lately, and the group of characters assembled here is an intriguing one. I found it a bit entertaining that Madame Xanadu has symbols on the front of her gown that look like the letters “MX” and that many of the super-team cliches are toyed with here, but the story and setting keep things fresh for me. Demon Knights #3 is still keeping this book in the upper-tier of the New 52, and earns a solid 3.5 out of 5 stars overall. I’m looking forward to seeing everything bust open next issue, and awaiting some more clues about Al Jabr and the Horsewoman…
Faithful Spoilerite Question Of The Day: Can a non-superhero title make a big enough impact to last in today’s comic-buying market?