New 52 Review: Demon Knights #1

Etrigan The Demon takes center stage in this Dark Ages series of scheming and sorcery.

Iann Robinsonby Iann Robinson

Demon Knights #1

You know those times when you kind of have to deal with the second stringers? You get to a show and the guitarist has been injured so the roadie takes over? Perhaps you’ve gone to the theater and the major actor you went to see has taken sick, leaving you with an understudy? That’s how it feels reading through Demon Knights, another of this week’s New 52 releases. Etrigan The Demon in his own book? Eh, not exactly riveting stuff. I give it to writer Paul Cornell, setting the whole thing during the Dark Ages gives it a D&D flair that serves the story well. That being said, Demon Knights #1 is unavoidably boring unless, for some reason, Etrigan is your favorite character in the DCU.

The problem here is that the book is way too niche driven for its own good.  Etrigan, a demon trapped by Merlin during the fall of Camelot, is put by Merlin into the body of a young squire named Jason for reasons we’re not let in on. That’s about where the similarities to Jack Kirby’s original story end. To change it up, Cornell introduces a woman named Xanadu, who has tried to capture Excalibur and failed. Jump ahead four hundred years to the Dark Ages and we find Jason and Xanadu traveling together.  Naturally they have a run in with the army of an evil King and Queen (we know they’re evil because the possess babies who then explode). 

There’s lots of Renaissance Faire-type dialog accompanied by swords and talk of mystical this and that. At the end, Etrigan appears to fight off the army so the evil King and Queen send dragons. You’d think the idea of a demon battling dragons would be sufficient to guarantee you’d buy issue #2. Sadly, it isn’t.  The story just doesn’t seem interesting enough to continue.

Demon Knights might not fail in everyone’s eyes. Folks out there with a healthy love of role playing games or collections of either swords or mead steins might want to boogie with Etrigan and his gang. Everybody else will fall into two camps, the ones that don’t care and the others that say “Who is Etrigan again?” If you’re going to start a second stringer in his own book, the kick-off had better be so exciting you’re riveted to each page. Paul Cornell gives us okay, and okay just doesn’t cut it. Demon Knights never rises out of fantasy clichés. Starting with Camelot? That would only work if Etrigan ran afoul of the Knights Who Say Neeee or the rabbit with big pointy teeth.

The art from Diogenes Neves is the real star of the issue. He does a lot with very little story, managing to take insignificant little scenes and make them pop to life with his art. There’s a definite John Romita Jr. vibe to what Neves does and it works for this kind of story.  Fantasy work should have a straight comic book art feel to it and that’s what Neves nails here. I just wish he’d had more to work with as far as the story goes. At some point I might be eating crow, I might be crawling through Liger manure in order to make amends towards Demon Knights. However, based on issue #1, it’s doubtful.