After returning N. Gaiman’s The Sandman Vol. 1 to the library, I picked up Demon Knights Vol. 1. Demon Knights is a title DC introduced as part of their New 52 reorganization/reboot in 2011. I confess that I was not/am not fully versed in DC’s magic realm. I know of The Phantom Stranger and I know of The Spectre, but that’s about it. The demon Etrigan and his connection to Merlin and Vandal Savage has a vague and fuzzy image in my brain. However, I saw this tradeback sitting on the shelf and could not resist.
This volume collects issues #1-7 of the title. I had no idea what to expect and after reading it, I am a happy reader. The title has survived the various “waves” of roster moves that DC made since the New 52, which is good. (Some titles, like Blue Beetle, didn’t last.) Overall, the story is interesting and the art is suitable. It’s not perfect, the flaws are there, but I think as a whole this title adds a diversification to the DC lineup that allows readers to read something different than a Bat-title (how many are there? 6? 8?)
So, when I say that I had no idea what to expect, I mean it. I just enjoyed the cover for a few minutes and then started turning pages. The story starts off at the fall of Camelot. Arthur is dead and three women are in a boat taking his body to Avalon. Excalibur is tossed into the waters – but Xanadu, one of the women in the boat, dives after the sword. We are then taken to the castle wherein we are given something of a point of departure for the demon Etrigan. Merlin has summoned and captured the demon. Jason of Norwich, a young boy, enters to tell Merlin the castle has fallen and they must flee. Merlin then “fixes” the demon to Jason. Moving forward in time, we meet Mordru and the Questing Queen. They are marching their horde army through the land to Alba Sarum.
That’s basically the first issue. And while it is a bit in media res, the careful reader can follow the storyline well enough. Part of the impetus of the New 52 was to re-introduce readers to the DC universe – without the readership having to be familiar with the entirety of DC’s history. I think this is done in this issue/volume, but it does take some patience. In some places in this volume, it seems like a simple battle book. I think that the “demon knights” are made distinct enough by the writer (Paul Cornell), but I also think that the storyline moved really fast. We are given some background story on some characters, perhaps enough to keep readers curious, but maybe not enough to keep us invested in the scenarios.
I like Conan and Kull and so this title works for me. I like the dark ages feel to it, with the debates of battle-strategy, magical elements, and questions of personal honor and destiny. The pacing was a bit too quick for me and the Questing Queen seems too distant/unknown to me. Also, I’m kind of guessing at how the magic powering works… people seem to “power down” and “power up,” but I am not entirely sure how that works exactly. Madame Xanadu is definitely a good character and has a lot of fun frames by the artist. Also, the covers done by Michael Choi are really pretty.
I definitely want to read the next volume – and I hope DC keeps this title running. Overall, I’m going to give this volume 4 stars.