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

The Story: Xanadu and Etrigan resume their “Are they or aren’t they” relationship.

The Review: If I’m going to commend DC for keeping a title like Dial H around, then they deserve another (smaller) show of gratitude for the continuing presence of Demon Knights.  While I certainly don’t see the fantasy series as on par with Dial H in terms of craft and importance, at the very least it breaks the monotony of superhero comics inundating the mainstream comics market, and that’s definitely something worth preserving.

Where else are you going to see Amazons versus vampires?  Not exactly high-concept, I grant you, but no less the interesting for it, right?  Now, if there’s any group of folk built to face the undead, it’s got to be the warrior women of Themyscira.  After one bout with the bloodsuckers, they’ve already caught on to all the tricks: pierce the heart and behead for a permanent kill; get ‘em in the sun to slow ‘em down; and finish off the bitten before they can add to the ranks.

So even in ordinary circumstances, you’d usually place your bet on the Amazons in this fight, but there are a couple of facts that make their ultimate triumph all but guaranteed.  One, I, Vampire #7 already established that Cain would fall to the Knights at some point and now seems a good time as any for that to happen.  Second, Wonder Woman shows that in the present day, the Amazons are all living, breathing, flesh-and-blood immortals, so we can’t expect too much lasting damage from this vampire invasion.  In those respects, the arc has already lost much of its element of surprise.

Not completely, however.  Jason continues to be something of a dark horse on this title, taking you aback with unexpected shows of steel in his character.  Thus far in the series, Jason hasn’t show much use or value outside of his demonic side, so it seems quite timely that he’d want to nip that perception in the bud.  On the other hand, taking a stand in Hell just to make a point about who’s the ballsiest between man and demon seems a bit extreme.

But Jason has a habit of flying off the handle; we’ve all known that as far back as #0, where you saw he had rage issues even back in King Arthur’s time.  Here he shows off his temperamental side once again when he turns on Xanadu.  It seems all those things Savage said about Xan and Etrigan really did get to Jason, as he accuses of her “sending me away” when she obviously did nothing of the sort.  It is sort of surprising, however, that when Etrigan reappears, Xan resumes her former show of attraction even though she seemed to abandon that pretense by #15—a fact even Etrigan remarks on.  What exactly is Venditti trying to do here by reviving this old tension?

Chang delivers fine work—nothing to complain about, but nothing to write home about, either.  It’s quite perplexing.  I have in my hand a copy of DC Universe Presents #9, featuring Vandal Savage, and if you look at Chang’s work here, it has an intensity and sense of space and movement that’s rather lacking in Demon Knights. Perhaps Chang simply works best in a more urban, grounded setting.  All that armor and architecture and artifact reveals how sparse and geometric his style is, and that makes for somewhat bland imagery.  Chang also thrives with close-ups, and we have a lot of medium to distant “shots” in this issue, reducing his figures to mere shapes and sketches.  And while Maiolo does a decent job coloring, I’m starting to think no one knows how to color Chang’s art better than Chang himself.

Conclusion: From a purely technical standpoint, it’s a well-executed issue, but somehow it lacks heart and life.  I can’t quite put my finger on it, but something’s missing.

Grade: B-

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – I don’t know why, but I’m inordinately excited at the prospect of possibly seeing Hippolyta in action sometime in this arc.  After all, she’s truly the Wonder Woman of this era, no?