Writer: Paul Cornell
Artists: Diogenes Neves, Oclair Albert
Publisher: DC Comics
Release Date: 14 September 2011
Reviewed by: Steve Aryan
Set in the Dark Ages of the DC Universe, a barbarian horde is massing to crush civilization. It's fallen to Madame Xanadu and Jason Blood, the man with a monster inside him, to stand in their way – though the demon Etrigan has no interest in protecting anyone or anything other than himself. It'll take more than their own power to stop an army fuelled by bloodlust and dark sorcery, and some very surprising heroes – and villains – will have no choice but to join the fray.
The first issue of Demon Knights is an exciting and thoroughly enjoyable comic. I’ve seen in various press releases and interviews with the writer, Paul Cornell, that he’s said if people enjoy Game of Thrones and Dragon Age, then this is the sort of story they will enjoy, and he’s absolutely right. The story is set in a world thriving with magic, monsters, men on quests, magical artefacts and legendary items from history. There is more overt magic than Game of Thrones, but there is also a lot of hearty violence, men with swords and the odd slaughter or two. There are plenty of ruthless characters, people who will do whatever they feel is necessary and if that includes murdering innocents, then so be it. This is not going to be a book where the characters can be easily divided into two camps with white and black hats. I suspect even those we follow in the story will not be noble and selfless heroes, but rather less unpleasant people than the rest, or merely those in the wrong place at the wrong time who get caught up in world events.
Even if you’ve never heard of any of the main characters before it doesn’t matter as the first issue gives you plenty to chew on. If you are familiar with the DC comics universe then there are lots of nice Easter eggs in there, plus plenty of tantalising clues for new readers. The first issue gives you a brief version of the origin of the main character, Etrigan, and it briefly introduces some of who I suspect will become part of the main band of characters that we will follow in future adventures. It’s hard to do all of that, give each of them a moment in the spotlight, and pack in action, adventure and a meaty plot, but Cornell manages it.
In the story an evil woman called the Questing Queen and her horde is marching across the land, conquering all and slaughtering those who get in the way. Unfortunately some of her people stumble into the wrong inn and they encounter Etrigan and a few old friends of his who are infamous and also incredibly dangerous. The result of this encounter will be seen in issue 2, but I expect it to be fairly bloody and very violent.
It might not seem like it, but this comic is a bit of a long-shot for DC comics. The mainstream arm of DC comics are most well known for producing superhero titles. Of the new 52 titles being launched some of them are obviously outside that traditional bracket (Men of War, All Star Western) and others are on the cusp and cross several genres. Then there are those that look like superhero comics but really aren’t, like Swamp Thing and Animal Man, which for me, are supernatural horror comics. Demon Knights is absolutely a fantasy comic. Superhero comics featuring magic based characters are not a new thing, not even for DC comics, but a fantasy comic set in a different era is relatively uncommon for them. Dynamite Entertainment and other comic book publishers have had success with series like Conan and Red Sonja for many years. With the recent popularity of Game of Thrones because of the TV series I can see why DC comics has done it. I just hope that enough readers, perhaps brand new readers, and existing readers willing to try a non-superhero comic, continue to pick up Demon Knights because we need that diversity and variety.
You can find a wide variety of comics in a hundred genres from different publishers, including fantasy, but it would be a real shame if DC comics became known only for producing superhero titles. They have some of the best artists and writers working for them and they have a brand that will pull in a lot more readers into a comic shop which is a good thing for everyone, businesses and other publishers alike.
I strayed off the point a little, but overall Demon Knights was a fun and entertaining comic with lots of potential and I look forward to seeing where it goes next.