Demon Knights is the least “tainted” of the new 52. It’s got dragons, demons, and amazons and it has a new setting with mostly new characters so there are no crazy retcons and no “wrong” costumes. This has been a strong title so far, particularly the first arc, but here we are a couple issues into the second arc. Can Demon Knights catch lightning in a bottle a second time? Find out after the jump.

demonknights18DEMON KNIGHTS #18
Writer: Robert Venditti
Artist: Bernard Chang
Colorist: Marcelo Maiolo
Letterer: Jared K. Fletcher
Editor: Chris Conroy
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover Price: $2.99

Previously in Demon Knights:  Decades have passed since the Knights’ angry break-up at the end of the first arc. An army of vampires threatens to take over Themyscira, which forces Al Jabr to get the band back together. As the curtain rises, Horsewoman, Sir Ystin and Exoristos have freed Jason Blood from Vandal Savage. Blood is unable to summon the Demon Etrigan, so the group looks to Madame Xanadu for help.

WHEN THE MOON IS IN THE SEVENTH HOUSE

The gang is back together again will all the distrust and infighting that we have come to know and love. LIke the good incarnations of the Defenders, the knights all despise one another but come together to fight the unbeatable foe. My favorite character piece is the handling of Xanadu. We see a lot of emotion between her and Blood, but it’s still completely ambiguous whether she honestly loves him or is just manipulating him for the power of the Demon. It will probably become tiresome eventually, but for now they’ve got an intriguing mystery between the three of them to play off of.

The relationship between Etrigan and Blood gets a new angle. The power dynamic is flipped where the demon finds himself at the mercy of the puny human. Of course, this is to the benefit of neither, but it will take a while for Blood to learn that and regret it.

Jason Blood is also a bit of an enigma, but I’m not sure if that’s on purpose yet. He is hundreds of years old, during which he has frequently endured earthly torture and literal Hell, yet I can’t tell from one statement to the next whether he’s a hardened veteran or a petulant teenager. Is there a point to it, or does it just make it easier for Lucifer to manipulate him? I’m hoping for the former. No, I’m not that optimistic. I’m just hoping the character gets a little less whiny. Just a little.

The dialogue is a bit stilted at times, with antiquated speech and overly-declarative statements. However you’ve got to give it a little bit of a pass for the genre. Fantasy stories don’t sound right without some flower to the language. And I grew up on Chris Clairemont so this kind of stuff rolls off my back.

My least favorite part of this comic was the way the villains were undersold. In previous issues, we’ve seen this unstoppable army of vampires that are going to destroy the world, but here they come across as a bunch of goons. The knights only fight a handful of vampires, not the whole army, but they still don’t come across as a serious, visceral threat. Yes, I can logic-out the danger but as a reader I should feel the danger. Usually, this isn’t a problem with this book because I know that everyone is always in danger . The great thing about second-tier characters is that anything can happen to them.

An aside: Technically, I think this book is in current DC continuity, although in the past. This doesn’t stand up to even light scrutiny as the actions of the heroes, not to mention an army of vampires, would create a drastically different present than we see. It helps if you think of it as a Xena version of history and don’t try to follow the implications too far.

WHAT CAN I SAY ABOUT THE ART?

On the whole, I like the art (which tells you that I’m about to complain about it) Chang’s pencils are inconsistent. On average it’s very good, which makes the occasional wonky face or loss of proportion stand out. The style is a bit like Steve Dillon–heavy lines with little to no cross-hatching. The colors are very computer-y, in a way that I find similarly uneven. There are some very nice effects where the backgrounds are faded out or images are blurred as seen through the rain. On the other hand, the coloring in this issue is doing the work of shading that would traditionally be done by an inker, The effect sometimes works but sometimes makes it look like the characters have been splattered with face/body paint. Of course, you might not be bothered by it, YMMV.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Are the kids still into vampires?

I give Demon Knights #18 three stars—not bad but not as good as it has been. It’s a good fantasy story with interesting, differentiated characters. Most of the issues I had with it could be fixed next issue or put into new context. And faint though the praise may be, it’s still my favorite thing published by DC lately.

Rating: ★★★★☆

DID YOU READ THIS ISSUE? RATE IT!
Reader Rating

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The Author

Dave Conde

Dave Conde

Dave Conde went to Grad school for Accounting and was voted “Most Likely to Quit Accounting and Become a Professional Skateboarder”. This is not demonstrably false. He reads a bit of everything but values the writing above the art. The only books he’ll buy regardless of the story are by Frank Cho, because…well damn. (Once he masters drawing more than one female face, Frank’s going to be unstoppable.)
He’s Dave. Solamente Dave. And he can’t be locked up in a cage like some kind of Manimal. He’s outta heeeeeeere.

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