I’ve been reading Demon Knights since the beginning and have loved every issue of it. Paul Cornell created the most original and still running concept at DC – as a genre fusion book, it boils down to one part superhero comic and one part medieval fantasy tale. All that greatness being said, I’d always had a problem with Cornell’s seeming lack of focus when it came to serious character and setting development; character growth seemed stunted, and the setting was always this sprawling, ever changing thing. Overall, developments were often left vague (admittedly, probably on purpose) and unfortunately left me with the desire for Cornell to simply flesh out the details already. However, with Demon Knights #16, we see a changing of the guard – Robert Venditti has taken over writing duties. Is he up for the task? Well that’s what the hell I’m trying to find out. My favorite bits will follow:
The tale starts thirty years after the previous issue, and the Knights of the Demon have gone their separate ways. To Venditti’s credit, he sets up the period well by referring to specific jurisdictions and places in Europe, i.e. the Holy Roman Empire and Moorish Spain. The most intriguing locale has got to be the latter, home of former Demon Knight, Al Jabr. I wasn’t aware until this point, probably because of my own stupidity, that old Al Jabr called Spain home. It’s such a cool element of multiculturalism and really adds to the book. Not only is a Moorish Spain historically accurate, but the fact that this Spain is being depicted as a place of “innovation and wonder,” enlightenment if you will, allows the region to serve as a base of strong moral structure for the knights, placing the Moorish Muslims in a light that does not pertain to villainy. Cool stuff, indeed.
The new villain is looking great. This vampire – no, I won’t tell you who he is – resembles past villains the Demon Knights have faced in that he acquires a giant army which is sweeping the continent of Europe. He ties into the DC Dark line of books, which makes me think that Demon Knights will tie-in more and more with modern DCU, and, also, into the I, Vampire mythos. That’s something worth getting excited about. I would love to see Andrew Bennett, the star of I, Vampire, make an appearance and/or possibly join the group now that his book is being canceled.
Venditti delivers some strong character moments, delving into interrelationship behaviors and romantic linkings outside of the Blood/Etrigan/Xanadu triangle. He manages to make out more plainly the relationship between Shinning Knight and Exoristos. All of this and the baffling nature of Horsewoman’s powers gets a bit more baffling. More cool stuff.
Bernard Chang, credited as artist and a holdover from the end of the previous run, makes for a great transition into a new era. I’ve been drawn to Chang’s work ever since I first saw it in Superman a few years back, when it was Starring Mon-El. Admittedly, even in the context of this particular book, Chang’s figures retain a level of clunkiness, but the style works for the barbaric time in which it’s set.
Bottom line: Check it out. If you were worried that tone would change from writer to writer, that is not the case. Venditti not only respects what came before him, but he also builds on it. It’s beautiful, and here’s to hoping that Venditti continues to flesh out these characters, the world they inhabit, the rules this unique setting abides, and how it connects to modern DCU. 5 out of 5 fist bumps for a solid A+!