By: Paul Cornell (story), Diógenes Neves (pencils), Oclair Albert & Dan Green (inks), Marcelo Maiolo (colors)

The Story: Even in the medieval ages, sororities aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.

The Review: One year later, has Demon Knights given us the epic comic-book fantasy we’ve been craving?  (By “we,” I do mean of course those of us who ever cared for such a thing.)  The answer is no, and frankly, I don’t think Cornell ever intended to give us the usual Tolkien-type fantasy.  What he’s going for is a strange mixture between parody (if the surplus of dinosaurs didn’t bring that home to you) and human drama, and it’s still not clear how it’ll work long-term.

Lately, the title has been steering away from the slapstick and gags which characterized the early issues.  This makes sense, considering all the Knights have been through: a terribly costly siege, near-death experiences, mystic manifestations of self-loathing.  But you can’t help missing the humor of more innocent days, kept alive only by Savage’s occasional but always hilarious quips: “I will not die so a woman with no face can gain different genitalia!”

As for the human drama side of things, it feels like Cornell wants us to become intimate with these characters—their tortured pasts and inner struggles and complex motivations—but just as we get close to gaining some understanding of them, he pulls us away.  As useful as all the interstitial bits the Knights keep revealing from time to time, it truly feels like we’ve only glossed the surface of these characters, and we keep missing opportunities to go further.

The most glaring example in this issue: the relationship between Xanadu and Morgaine.  Once the action quiets down, you still don’t know if their sisterhood is literal or figurative, and where exactly they land in King Arthur’s family tree.  Clearly, Xanadu’s origins as a Lady of the Lake figures heavily into this quest of theirs, and her history with Morgaine in particular is crucial to getting the most out of this latest diversion.  Somehow, we sidestep all that intriguing material.

Perhaps Cornell means to revisit this stuff another day, but that’s no excuse for avoiding some important questions of context.  Morgaine claims she does what she does now solely for the sake of survival, but how exactly did she reach this point?  Her fellow sisters clearly had no problems living youthfully all this time, so why did she feel the need to resort to “desperate” magic when it took such a toll on her?

Some things Cornell leaves to no imagination at all.  If Etrigan ever wanted to put on the pretense, however thin, that Xanadu had secretly malevolent, ulterior motives for her actions, he sure threw that farce out the window a couple issues ago when he promised his companions to Lucifer for a promotion.  Still, it’ll be interesting to see how these Knights manage to get past this betrayal, since Etrigan is a fated member of the team.

It’s been a while since Neves last penciled a whole issue himself, and make no mistake, his work gracing every page is a delight.  But there are a few panels, however, which don’t look quite as sharp and solid as you’ve come to expect from Neves.  Look at that last page to see what I mean.  Perhaps new inker Green doesn’t have quite the respect for Neves’ pencils that Albert does.

Conclusion: Still a worthy read, but still growing into the kind of title it’s meant to be.

Grade: B-

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – Shame about King Arthur.  That guy just never catches a break, does he?  Kind of makes you think his wife was an even bigger [epithet] for cheating on him with his best bud, huh?