By: Paul Cornell (writer), Diógenes Neves (penciller), Oclair Albert (inker), Marcelo Maiolo (colorist)
The Story: You know, the T-bones of T-Rexes make s’good eatin’.
The Review: Anyone who’s watched almost any episode of Seinfield knows that when you have a group of characters that vibrant and diverse, you can be entertained watching them do pretty much nothing. And that is pretty much what Seinfield fans did, episode after episode, for years. While the show’s lack of sentimentality made it a bit harder for the characters to capture hearts, nevertheless, a lot of people became attached to the sheer force of their personalities.
Demon Knights has just about the most entertaining and engaging cast of all the new DC titles, with the added bonus of being set against a particularly fertile ground for imaginative storytelling. If you have a comic whose opening includes a two-page splash of fire-breathing dinosaurs in armor, and Vandal Savage exclaiming with a manic gleam, “Excellent! I haven’t eaten one of these in centuries!”—well, something’s going right for you, that’s for sure.
Savage pretty much steals the show throughout the issue. His outrageous enthusiasm for the sheer carnage of battle, and the tasty treats reaped afterwards, remind you that no matter how much knowledge or experience Savage has gained over the centuries of his immortal life, he started out a caveman and continues to have that primal brutality in him. You don’t believe it? Here’s one of his many choice lines: “Die, taste rare creatures–! —Dieee!”
Every character gets a moment to shine. If you love the fantasy genre and its splendid turns of phrase and extravagant sense of honor, you won’t get a better scene than Shining Knight calling to her winged horse (“To me, Vanguard!”), mounting it, and shouting against the fury of several dozen warriors riding on pterodactyls (as you can infer, the title is nothing short of spectacular), “For the knot that is sealed! For the quest! I meet my death laughing!”
The reason Cornell has such a gift for dialogue is his ability to craft lines that credibly evoke the period, sound highly stylish, yet remain fully accessible at the same time. Take Amazon Exoristos goodhearted exchange with a little girl. Girl: “You were amazing—” Ex: “Thanks!” “…but you dress like a tart.” “Again, thanks! Is that some kind of pastry?” You not only get some great jokes, but also a nice insight into Ex’s naivety, despite her aggressive feminism.
Then you have the coupling of Xanadu and Etrigan, which is not going too well, apparently. But Xan has little time to worry if she’ll ever “reform” her boyfriend; with Mordru amping up his magical assault, she’s the only one who can draw the power necessary to confront him. Cornell wisely uses the scene to do some world-building, distinguishing different types of magic and setting up for the big, mystic battle to come.
Cornell’s witty and wondrous writing makes a very substantial cake, but Neves delivers a beautiful icing. Like his creative partner, Neves can simultaneously work the amusing and the sober, as he does in Savage’s grim monologue about the madness of war while he gnaws on a sizable (dinosaur) drumstick. Neves’ enthusiasm for this kind of story is obvious in every panel.
Conclusion: Once Cornell gets his footing, he’s quick to build up speed, and the series ramps well into high gear in this issue. Even if you don’t love fantasy, you’ll appreciate the pure fun of this one.
– Minhquan Nguyen
Some Musings: – I find it hilarious that no one, not even a priest from a mountain village, is fooled by Shining Knight’s “disguise.”
– Etrigan very succinctly points out the utter futility of trying to find redemption in Hellspawn: “…Demon—evil.”