REVIEW: Demon Knights #0

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“Of scribe’s first disobedience, and the fight/Against the rebel Tyrant, whose immortal malaise/Brought the Demon into the world, and all our woe,/With loss of Arthur, till seven motley knights/Restore us, and regain the blissful Camelot,/Sing heavenly muse” – after John Milton

Hang on kids, we’re getting biblical.

DEMON KNIGHTS #0
Writer: Paul Cornell
Artist: Bernard Chang
Letterer: Jared K. Fletcher
Colors: Marcelo Miaolo
Editor: Chris Conroy
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover Price: $2.99

Previously in Demon Knights: In the beginning, God created the Heaven and the Earth. Then He created humans, which pissed off the angel Lucifer Morningstar, who led a rebellion against the Creator. That never goes well but this was the first one so no one knew. Sent to Hell, Lucifer ruled over the demons and damned souls, which sounds better than it was. Meanwhile, in Camelot, most everything you remember from every other depiction of Camelot happened (except for the Knights Who Say “Ni”). Additionally, Merlin had a scribe with anger management issues named Jason Blood, and Jason had a girlfriend named Nimue who was…let’s just say she’s magic. That’s all you have to know.

“our state cannot be severed, we are one./One flesh;”

Well, I guess the other thing you have to know is that The Demon is a tragic anti-hero made up of immortal magic-guy Jason Blood and literal demon Etrigan and the two are cursed such that one is on Earth and the other in Hell but they can magically switch places. See also: Billy Batson/Captain Marvel, Rick Jones/Captain Marvel, Bruce Banner/Hulk (and all other hulk variants), Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde, Larry Talbot/The Wolf Man, or Rutger Houer/Michelle Pfeiffer.

Since this is a zero issue, we get an origin story. Since there are two sides to the character, the story goes back and forth between Etrigan in Hell, and Blood in Camelot. Etrigan is a disgruntled Demon in service to the worst boss ever, Lucifer. Blood is a scribe with anger issues working for a cold and demanding boss, Merlin. One leads a rebellion in Hell and the other gets mad and touches King Arthur’s shirt, you can guess which is which. In the most drastic Human Resources intervention ever, the bosses get together and curse the employees to the ultimate Odd Couple.

As this is the retelling of a long-established character in the DCnU, there aren’t really any surprises. I suppose they could have covered the origin of another team member, but they’d rather save the unexpected reveals for longer arcs, which is probably for the best. The stated goal of the zero issues is to provide a jumping on point for new readers and this issue hits the target. A new reader only needs the bare minimum knowledge of King Arthur and the Judeo-Christian Hell to pick up and follow this book. The tone of this story matches the tone of the ongoing story, so if you like this you are going to like the main story.

“Wild above rule or art, enormous bliss.”

The art is fantastic, by which I mean that it fits well with the fantasy setting of the story. It’s quite good, too. I particularly appreciate the depictions of Hell and the Demons. Supernatural settings like that often suffer from the Lovecraft problem; how do you communicate to the reader something that should be overwhelming to the human mind? You can go abstract like Picasso in Guernica, his painting depicting the horror of war, but then the art and the setting would overshadow the plot and characters. Instead, Bernard Chang relies on a fiery orange color palette and a “fog of war” effect similar to a lot of video games where the close horizon blurs out to imply the unspeakable without having to show every detail. The idea is simple, but the sense of what’s lurking outside the panel set the context for what was inside the panel.

Other than that, Camelot is shown with above-average, generic fantasy castle art. The walls and towers are unreasonably high, but it’s what we’ve come to expect a medieval fantasy setting to look like. Also, the facial expressions are subtle, especially for the level of high drama going on. Each characters’ thoughts come across in their faces (except when Merlin is purposefully inscrutable). Having lived through the ’90s era of tooth-grinding constipation-face, I appreciate when the artist can supplement the text by acting through his/her drawings.

THE BOTTOM LINE: “Awake, arise or be for ever fall’n.”

For a zero issue, this does what it is supposed to do, giving a grounding in the back-story of one of the main team members. If I hadn’t already been reading the title, this issue would have made me check it out. I give Demon Knights #0 4 stars—if you are at all interested in a fantasy story in the DCU, pick it up.

Rating: ★★★★☆

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