By: Paul Cornell (writer), Diógenes Neves (penciller), Oclair Albert (inker), Marcelo Maiolo (colorist)
The Story: Don’t be fooled into thinking you’re playing WoW—this is a comic you’re reading.
The Review: It just occurred to me that I’ve spent quite a bit of time on this site discussing any number of fictional genres: sci-fi, pulp, noir, romance, thriller, and on and on. One we haven’t really covered is fantasy, by which I mean your classic, dungeons-and-dragons, wizards and knights stuff. Of all the titles between the Big Two, only Thor sort of counts as the kind of fantasy we’re talking about, and the genre doesn’t fare much better among the indies.
Enter Cornell’s Demon Knights, which can’t possibly fit the bill better unless it established the genre itself. It even starts from the very paragon of fantasy stories, Camelot, but rather than poach off that already overdone mythos, this issue uses it as a jumping-off point, a way to understand how the glory of King Arthur’s reign gave way to the present grimness our heroes exist in now. And since some of them have their origins in Camelot, it’s a fitting start indeed.
Two of them should look pretty familiar: supernatural superstars Jason Blood (alter-ego: Etrigan the Demon) and Madame Xanadu, who, at this juncture of their immortal lives, come about as fresh-faced as it’s possible for them to be. Jason retains his resignation as a cursed host of the demon, but the young Xanadu has none of her farseeing airiness. In its place, Cornell gives her a lively candor (“I say again, my love—my arse.”) and promiscuity. Fun as it is to read her blunt style of repartee, it’s even more fun to see her cheat on Jason with his demonic alter-ego.
You also have a few other faces in the mix, some more familiar than others. Vandal Savage, of course, needs no introduction (though he plays up his barbarian roots most delightfully here). You might recognize Sir Ystin, the Shining Knight of Grant Morrison’s Seven Soldiers, who has a fairly complicated background, to say the least, but I’ll say no more about the good knight lest I reveal too much. You also have Al Jabr, ingratiating merchant; Exoristos, a ridiculously tall Amazon; and a nameless archeress on a horse. Can anyone say good times?
And who do we have for our villains today, Johnny? Why, none other than Mordru, longtime enemy of both the JSA and the Legion of Super-Heroes, and looking quite a lot more well-preserved than usual. Along with the Questing Queen, both have taken over the ruins of the world left behind in Camelot’s ashes, and judging by their flippant sacrifice of a newborn babe to channel an evil prophecy, they’re doing it with a firm hand. We don’t get a clear idea what the overarching plot of this series will be, but it’s obvious we’ll be well-entertained along the way.
Neves has a near-perfect handle on what a medieval fantasy title should look like: elaborate robes and capes, weapons and armor both worn down and ornate, rugged men, and fair women. He pencils them all with confident thin lines that Albert touches with just enough body to look substantial, yet still loose and flexible. Even the throwaway pillagers get distinctive features, and out of the corner of your eye you’ll notice fun little details, like the stars and teeth popping out of one thug’s face as he runs into a wooden post. Maiolo’s colors really bring the issue to live with its eye-popping vibrance, especially in the misty hues upon the waters to Avalon.
Conclusion: Somehow, with only the barest hint of a plot to speak of, you still come out of the issue incredibly satisfied and in anticipation for the next. If you’re a fantasy lover, this title will suit you most adequately.
– Minhquan Nguyen
Some Musings: – And the award for Best Management Strategy Ever goes to…Mordru: “We find the source of the problem—and we throw dragons at it.”