The Demon is one of those jetsetting DC characters. Etrigan pops up in Vertigo books, DC books and even unexpected places like the DCAU. There is a reason for this, and it might be because Etrigan/Jason Blood have been two of the most notable antiheroes DC comics has. Now with their own (sort of) book again, readers get to see how these two crazy kids got together in the New 52 universe.
Written by Paul Cornell
Illustrated by Bernard Chang
– Deep in the past of The New 52, Etrigan the Demon and Jason Blood struggle against Merlin and Lucifer!
– The horrible curse that unite them is revealed!
“Demon Knights” is just a fun book. Maybe it is the dashing way Etrigan can be such a sleezeball. Perhaps its seeing versions of modern characters like Vandal Savage run around and eat dinosaurs like a ravenous bearded five yearold. It could be that this is a very fantasy book in from a superhero dominated publisher. Or it could just be Paul Cornell. Whatever the reason, for me this has been one of those unexpected gems of the New 52, and this issue is no different.
The whole point of these zero issues, so we’ve been told, is to provide a point of origin for these characters in the the New 52. Some books have kept that promise and others not so much, but “Demon Knights” makes good. Readers get a look at both Jason Blood and Etrgian before their very literally fateful meeting, and also get to meet Morgaine, Merlin, and all those other important Camelot types. In this origin story, Camelot is the halcyon days, before the Demon Knights were needed to protect the realm. Meanwhile, the realm of Hell is, still pretty much Hell, complete with tribes of demons and a Lucifer. We get the idea that Jason Blood and Etrigan were very much made for each other; both character are precocious underdogs who want to take the fast track to the top of the heap. Both characters also seem hellbent on getting themselves killed as well. While the plot focuses equally on Blood and Etrigan, Etrigan’s parts are what really make the issue. Blood, as the reader is introduced to him really only has the stigma of being a lousy wizard, which considering he’s only an apprentice is easily forgivable. Etrigan on the other hand is a thoroughly incompetant demon. He can’t even rhyme, and wants to depose Lucifer? Demon, please! Without giving anything away, all that can be said is that the inevitable binding of Jason and Etrigan is much less a punishement and more of a lifeline for both characters.
There there always seems to be a high amount of the irreverant in Paul Cornell’s writing. Continuity, characters, nothing is sacred, which is appropriate for a book titled “Demon Knights.” Some interesting twists are pulled in this issue, only the first of which is the realization that Etrigan isn’t very good at his job. Insights to the lineage of Merlin, visions of the man Jason could become, and a sneaky reference to Stormwatch are all things Cornell manages to pack into just thirty two pages. That is pretty impressive considering how this single issue has to serve as an origin for not only two characters, but the Demon Knights as well. Cornell does a good job at establishing the motivations for Blood and Etrigan, and why their binding is neccessary. What isn’t established entirely well is why the reader should care. The problem is that both Jason and Etrigan come across as almost complete tools. Both only want power, and they want it now. Both terribly want to be important, and posses an already inflated sense of how great they are. Its good that this is a zero issue, because if this was a #1, than the reader wouldn’t have too much reason to get invested in these characters. It works in a hindsight sort of way, giving commited readers of “Demon Knights” a chance to glimpse how the characters have grown in their current states, but as a single issue, their personalities fall a little flat. It also seems wildly inconsistant that Etrgian is piss-poor at rhyming, but can best dozens of better Prose Demons in single combat. However, these inconsistanties only seem obvious after a couple of reads, because this book is enough fun to distract you from its flaws. Also, the art is very, very pretty to look at.Continued below
Bernard Chang is a really talented artist, and one that isn’t seen enough month to month in comics. While his art in this issue isn’t totally mind blowing, Chang has enough of a distinguishing style to give the book some flair. The issue also has a very cinematic feel, very wide screen. Lots of establishing shots of Camelot and Hell, that then transfer into talking scenes make this feel like an episode of a fantasy televison show. Artwise, probably the best moment in the story is the aftermath of Etrigan’s bloody temper tantrum. A lot of loving detail is given to Etrigan’s every cut and scratch, as well as the littered bodies of demonic assailants. Speaking of which, Chang doesn’t take the easy route and make each demon an indistunguishable stock character. Each has its own little naunces and characteristics that set them appart. It is a nice touch that gives this issue some reread value. The colorist Marcelo Maiolo deserves mention, because without him this book could not look nearly as pretty. The lighting effects alone really make Chang’s art pop and come to life. Maiolo makes a sword that would otherwise just look ‘red’ covered in rusty brown blood. Color is not something many fans seem to talk about, but it can really affect the look and feel of any book. In this instance, Maiolo was the right man for the job.
Much like its sister book, “Stormwatch,” the zero issue of “Demon Knights” gives the reader exactly what was promised – a straight forward origin story for the Etrigan/Jason Blood, if not the entire team. It hints at ties with the Stormwatch team in the current DCU, and all in all, it is a pretty fun read. Whether you have been following “Demon Knights” for the past year, or want to jump on at this issue, consider picking it up.
Final Verdict: 7.7- A short rhyme, to pass the time. “Demon Knights” be worth your $2.99.