DEMON KNIGHTS #16

By: Robert Venditti (story), Bernard Chang (art), Marcelo Maiolo (colors)

The Story: It’d be nice if these reunions could happen anyplace besides a dungeon cell.

The Review: I’m always a little wary after a writer I admire leaves his title for some unknown to take his place—unknown to me, of course.  I’ve only heard vaguely respectable rumors about Venditti from my subconscious internet browsing, but I still had my doubts as to his ability to step in Paul Cornell’s shoes.  That’s still a step up from where Peter Milligan stood when he took over Stormwatch from Cornell, however; I didn’t even give Milligan a chance to prove himself.

As you read this issue, it soon becomes clear that Venditti definitely brings his own taste to the title, but he tries very hard to remain true to the blend of playfulness and ambition Cornell brought.  The specter of fate surrounding our group remains the same, as does the tense camaraderie of the characters.  Most importantly, perhaps, Venditti does not go out of his way to shake up the status quo or change the cast’s core personalities.

Even though thirty years have passed, the general dynamic of the Knights haven’t changed too much.  Horsewoman seems only slightly more talkative than before, but she’s still as cold and scrutinizing as ever.  Exoristos still seems given to confrontation and shame by turns, and Shining Knight has only grown a little more self-righteous.  It all feels very familiar, perhaps because during those thirty years, they’ve all run into each other now and again.

It helps too that besides their personalities, their appearances haven’t changed much either.  It never occurred to me prior to Venditti calling attention to it that most of the Knights are immortal, although some gain it in unexpected ways.  As a sample of Venditti’s original spins to the series, Horsewoman preserves her youth through her mounts (which really begs the question of how she came by her magic saddle in the first place).  Only Al Jabr has experienced the pleasures of aging during the passing years, taking him out of commission for actual fighting, but I think that’s Venditti conveniently putting the scholar in the position he serves best anyway: as tactician and advisor.  He never was much good in a fight.

However, in some ways, a more profound and less obvious change has befallen all our characters.  Whereas once each had a sort of whimsical, even enthusiastic side (no doubt a byproduct of Cornell’s whimsical, enthusiastic style), much of that has given way to caution and a bit of a harder edge.  Even Vandal Savage’s boisterous merrymaking has lost its jolly nature and verges more on the sadistic meanness we’ve come to expect from the immortal villain.

Venditti makes the clever choice of using Cain, a boss villain established in I, Vampire, as his first major antagonist.  Not only does this tie into some of the continuity points Joshua Hale Fialkov brought up in I, Vampire #7, but it provides a substantial enough basis for drawing the Demon Knights together again as a matter of fate.  Throwing Amazons into the mix definitely ratchets up the unpredictability/fun factor, too.  I’ll be very interested to see where this all goes.

Chang is a solid artist, but he’s also a very technical one, which results in artwork that comes across as if it lacks heart.  Even with Maiolo’s golden colors streaming through the page, the perfectly straight or arched lines of Chang’s figures seems a bit cold.  As a consequence, the settings look more like sets than lived-in worlds, and characters seem a little distant and aloof, even when they’re not.  Still, it’s very attractive, and technically faultless.

Conclusion: It’s a great relief to find that Venditti makes a smooth transition between what Cornell left behind and what’s to come.

Grade: B

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – You know, the thing about BDSM gear I never understood are all the excess studs and points on the outside of things.  It’s just to emphasize this is dangerous, painful stuff, I guess.

Grade

Conclusion