When people think of DC Comics, they don’t usually think about fantasy. There have been past exceptions with titles such as Warlord and Amethyst but despite a relatively recent run of Warlord, DC has not done much with the fantasy genre. Now writer Paul Cornell takes Jack Kirby’s magical hero Etrigan the Demon, places him smack dab in the Dark Ages, adds a few other familiar faces and creates a fantasy comic worthy of attention in Demon Knights with art by Diógenes Neves penciling, Oclair Albert inking and Marcelo Maiolo doing the coloring.
The story opens with the fall of Camelot, and it provides a quick origin of Etrigan explaining how his human form Jason Blood came to be possessed by the Demon form. Then it jumps to the Dark Ages where Etrigan the Demon travels with fellow immortal and his lady love, Madam Xanadu. They stop at a pub to get a pint and everything goes to hell. Things happen quickly, with the characters thrown together after meeting. Other notable DC characters that pop up are the immortal Vandal Savage and the Shining Knight, who is not all “he” pretends to be. It is really cool to see familiar characters existing in the past and associating with one another in this world of swords and sorcery.
Etrigan, Xanadu and the others find themselves in the way of a rampaging horde sent out on a mission to conquer everything in their path. The rulers behind the horde are the Lord of Chaos Mordru (who has fought the Legion of Super-Heroes and the Justice Society previously in different time periods) and the Questing Queen, a new character. Quickly uniting under the threat of invasion, the warriors visiting the pub quickly find themselves in over their heads.
Not everyone is introduced fully, as some characters don’t get much of a time to shine or are hidden in shadows. One character that doesn’t show up is Harry Tanner, Eminence of Blades, another immortal who was seen fighting alongside the Demon Knights in Stormwatch #1 (also written by Cornell) in a flashback. Regardless, the table is set for high adventure in a tale of gathering heroes worthy of a well executed Dungeons & Dragons game and the best fantasy novels. All of the characters are interesting and have potential to shine, and their adversaries are ruthless in their quest for power.
Cornell really writes an intriguing tale with these characters and it works well in entrancing the reader and ends with a compelling hook. The artwork is also quite good and is packed with detail. Etrigan sports a new armored look which suits the setting well, and Maiolo’s colors are especially nice, livening up Neves’ pencils and Albert’s inks. The creators’ work combines to bring about a great start to what looks to be a compelling series.
Overall, Demon Knights #1 provides a great fantasy story with an unlikely teaming of old and new DC characters who certainly will have their work cut out for them. You need not know anything for this book, and it does a good job of introducing Kirby’s Demon in the series’ setting of resistance against the overwhelming horde. Magic, mystery and swordplay abound as the issue comes together and make Demon Knights #1 an adventure worth taking.