DC NEW 52 trial run: DEMON KNIGHTS rates an A
DEMON KNIGHTS #1 – 3 (DC) Paul Cornell, writer. Diogenes Neves, penciller. Oclair Albert, inker. Marcelo Maiolo, colorist. Jared K. Fletcher: letterer. Covers by Tony Daniel and Tomeu Morey, and assist by Norm Rapmund on #3. The Demon created by Jack Kirby.
I really like what the creative team is doing with this book. They’ve taken The Demon, Kirby’s displaced demonic anti-hero, and planted him in new surroundings closer to his place (Camelot) and time of origin (four centuries ago). They’ve surrounded him with a complimentary cast of characters that are certain to provide a variety of interesting situations and sub-plots. Writer Paul Cornell described them as “the Medieval Magnificent Seven” and the tag line fits extremely well.
So, what happens in DEMON KNIGHTS? . . . . .
As the castle of Camelot is under siege, a desperate Merlin releases the captive demon Etrigan, and imprisons him within the form of servant Jason of Norwich. Meanwhile, the dedicated Sisters Of The Order transport the body of Arthur across the fabled lake to Avalon. Suddenly one of the nuns, Xanadu by name (could it be one and the same?), dives into the lake and tries to retrieve the sword Excalibur. Did she succeed? Flash forward now to the Dark Ages where the “Horde of The QUESTING QUEEN marches North . . . . “
Jason and Xanadu are now partnered and try to pass themselves of as “pilgrims” as they enter a village that rests directly within the path of the marching Horde. They eventually meet the other members of the “Seven Against The Dark” beginning with a younger and more mirthful Vandal Savage. At this point in his immortal life he appears to be more interested initially in getting a pint to drink and being a participant in the coming events rather than the usual planner and puller-of-strings of centuries later. (It isn’t until later when a bigger threat arises that he acts more like a field general and plans a defense.) Soon they are drinking together and then make the acquaintance of Sir Ystin (The Shining Knight); Al Jabr from faraway lands (a Saracen?); the huge amazon Exoristos; and the mysterious and incredibly accurate archer known as The Horsewoman. Before long they are allied against the armies and dragons of The Queen and her wizard Mordru.
What do I like about this book? . . . . .
1) I’ve been craving to read a series set in a fantastic realm that isn’t tied into gaming or an already established canon. This allows for a fresh start.
2) I’m curious about the partnership between Jason/Etrigan and Xanada as well as the romantic triangle. As Jason converts to Etrigan to join in the bar fight he begins by kissing Xanadu. As she pulls away from his embrace, The Demon asks “You’re still fooling him? Telling him he fires your passion . . .?” and she finishes for him “. . . When I really prefer - - a bit of rough.”
3) The tongue-in-cheek nature of this book that remains restrained and funny - - never exceeding its bounds to become parody, or spoof, or the dreaded pseudo-hip “campy”.
4) Dragons. I forgot how much I missed them since the demise of SOJOURN ( the late Crossgen series, which THE DEMON reminds me of with its similar interplay between fatal danger and humor.) The added bonus here is that there are several varieties of dragons with different powers and abilities.
5) The gender-less nature of The Shining Knight. Many of the characters makes hints about it, which he/she is well aware of and answers their jibes in a humorous fashion. The trick here, which writer Cornell pulls off masterly, is to handle this subject in a mature fashion and keep it from appearing over done, prejudiced/bigoted, or homophobic.
6) The art of penciller Diogenes Neves and inker Oclair Albert. Together, their style is perfectly suited to the fast-paced and somewhat light-hearted nature of this book.
7) Etrigan and Jason cannot exist on the same plane together. So, while one is on Earth the other is in Hell. I’m sure that futures issues will feature some interesting subplots with Jason in Hell.
8) I’ve had more FUN reading this title than some of the other excellent but more somber NEW 52 series.
What don’t I like about this book? . . . . . . .
1) It’s a pleasant problem. I never anticipated that I would enjoy this many of the NEW 52 titles so far. I keep sampling new books and it’s dominating my reading as well as what I’m writing about (since I made a sort of commitment to follow 3 issues of various series, etc.) I’m spending more than I wanted to on DC books, and since the first story arc of THE DEMON is just getting heated (meaning you can still jump on and catch up) I’ll have to come back for Issue #4 and more. But I’m not crying about it; and please don’t shed any sympathy tears for me. Marvel, you have my permission to cry.
and, another book I tried an issue of and decided not to continue . . . .
THE SAVAGE HAWKMAN #1 (DC) Tony S. Daniel, writer. Philip Tan, art. Sunny Gho, colors. Travis Lanham, letters. Hawkman created by Gardner Fox.
THE SAVAGE HAWKMAN begins as a straightforward adventure story. Many things change in the life of Carter Hall (aka Hawkman) and writer Tony Daniel relays all this information piece by piece without slowing the story down. I don’t want to create the impression that I don’t appreciate his work or his writing skills. I’ve just read so much over the years that seems similar that I can’t get interested. There is no “hook” here for me.
The art is first-class and the pacing is excellent. The changes in Carter Hall’s life (he was seeming a little suicidal as the story opens and later revealed to be a little apathetic about his new address, etc.) are somewhat bold. There is no Hawkwoman apparently, making Carter a true loner. He even tries to bury the Hawkman costume and walk away from his past. This leads to a bond being forged between the Nth Metal and Carter that makes it possible for him to transform at will without having to don the harness and granting him some new powers. The threat in this issue is another all-powerful alien life force that wants to suck the energy and special powers from Hawkman. Since I’m already following one alien story line (The Trench in AQUAMAN) I don’t feel like following another one. Even the alien’s teeth look similar to the piranha-like Trenchers.