Thursday, May 31, 2012

Demon Knights #7-9: A Review

When you get right down to it, the major theme of Demon Knights is Lies and Secrets.  Nearly every character has at least one secret they are keeping and most of them are lying to protect it.  Sir Jason O' The Blood is bound to a demon, that he tries to keep hidden.  The Amazon Exoristos has been exiled from her homeland for reasons she will not discuss.  And the mysterious Horsewoman has powers beyond explanation, yet is guarded about leaving the back of her beloved steed.  Even the characters who seem to be direct, if not entirely honest, prove to be liars of a kind at some point or another.

Case in Point: Issue #7 concludes the opening story arc, as the barbarian Vandal Savage - presumed to be a traitor - returns to aid his comrades and/or to loot the treasure trove of the wicked Questing Queen, to whom he had recently re-sworn his allegiance.  As treacherous in the past as he is in the present-day DCU, Savage's promises are worth less than the good steel he carries.  Yet the party tolerates him as he is a better ally than an enemy and they have no way of proving that he wasn't switching sides to whichever was most convenient at the time.  

This scene also showcases one of the finer points of this book.  It is a glorious fantasy epic, yes.  And it is a treat for we DC Comics history geeks who love the conceit of having all of these characters who were around during medieval times interacting with one another.  But what really makes me thrill to this book month after month is Cornell's sly humor, which is as razor sharp today as it was when I was first exposed to it in his Knight and Squire title.

Issue #8 is an excellent one-shot story and a good jumping-on point for new readers.  With a chance to rest now that the battle which united them is over, the Demon Knights (as they are now called) press Sir Jason and the sorceress Madame Xanadu for details about how their unusual relationship came to be.  More, they ask - and we discover - why "Xan" offers herself up as a lover to Jason's demonic half, Etrigan.   

This issue is deeply touching a true tragic romance.  We find out that Jason and Xanadu have known each other back in the days of Camelot and that "Xan" had been Merlin's prize pupil and Jason was Merlin's personal scribe.  But as Etrigan reminds us in the final pages, there are several ways a story can be true depending on the teller.  And for all her talk of loving the noble Sir Jason, there is much darkness in Xanadu's soul and many things she's done that would make kissing a demon seem tame by comparison.

Issue #9 is another excellent introductory issue for new readers.  Indeed, the issue opens with a roll-call of our main cast as they are spied on from afar and their talents and what little we know of some of their backstories is recounted.  Having arrived in the city of Alba Sarum, which they had been fighting to protect for the past few issues, the Demon Knights are taken before the princesses who rule the land together and are hired to deal with a recent crisis.  Namely, the death of Merlin, who was guesting in the city and whose body seems dead but still does not bleed out despite the wound that was dealt to him. 

I've said little about lead artist Diogenes Neves in all of this.  In truth, there is nothing for me to say except that his artwork is amazing and a perfect balance of form and function.  Each character has an specific individual design that makes them easy to tell apart, even when out of their usual uniform.  This may seem like a small thing but in an industry where too many artists are unable to draw more than a single female form or face, I feel it worth nothing that all of Neves' figures are unique.

This book is a must-read for all fans of quality comics.  If you are a fan of sword-and-sorcery, you will find much here that appeals as will fans of dark comedy and dry humor.   The artwork is gorgeous and of a quality rarely seen on monthly books these days.  And DC Comics history buffs can enjoy themselves just boggling at the concept before they even read the book.

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