Thursday, September 15, 2011

Review: Demon Knights #1

Make no mistake- I love superheroes. I love the capes and the costumes, the incredible powers, secret identities, the whole shebang. But I also think that superheros have engulfed the comic industry. There are so many similar characters, and so little variety when you're in the mood for something different. DC has begun to address that with their new Dark and Edge titles. Books like Animal Man, Swamp Thing, and Men of War are just the sort of thing comics need, and the new focus on diversification is easily my favorite part of the relaunch. I say all this so you understand what a huge compliment I'm paying when I say that out of all the Dark and Edge titles I've read, Paul Cornell's Demon Knights is the best of the bunch.

Paul Cornell is a man who understands what makes comic books fun. From immortals casually discussing the fall of Camelot to villains who solve problems by throwing dragons at them, this title is full of imagination, big ideas, and never takes itself too seriously. Tying a medieval fantasy tale into the greater DC universe may seem like a big challenge, but it's one Cornell handles deftly. His sharp, witty dialogue avoids standard fantasy pitfalls like being tiring to read or of feeling overly anachronistic. Line after line left me smiling or laughing out loud, and the comic only read better the second and third times around.

Diogenes Neves isn't an artist I was familiar with prior to reading this title, but I'm now very much a fan. His work here is reminiscent of Art Adams- a compliment of the highest order- and his backgrounds are filled with great details that give me something new to enjoy with every re-read. His lively, fun facial expressions are a perfect match for Cornell's sense of humor, and help give every member of the cast a little more personality. He also makes great use of body language, especially when introducing Ystina, the Shining Knight. While I'm hugely impressed with Neves' work and don't want to take away from it in any way, I also want to compliment the work of inker Oclair Albert. I saw penciled versions of a few of these pages, and his work here really took them to the next level. He and Neves make a great team.

After giving readers a bit of backstory, we're launched into our current tale. Cornell plays with classic elements I love, from the reluctant heroes trope to the Dungeons & Dragons setup of the teeam meeting at a pub. We only saw hints of some characters, such as archer extraordinaire The Horsewoman, but every member of the team seems interesting and like they'll add a lot to the title. Vandal Savage is more entertaining than he's been in years, busting through walls to get into an inn and cheerfully describing his lack of ethics while admiring them in others. Ystina, a personal favorite of mine, is cocky, confident, and instantly likable, and I'm really looking forward to seeing her in action.

One thing that struck me while reading this was that even the oldest characters in the title feel fresh and new. A Madame Xanadu, Jason Blood and Etrigan love triangle is introduced, and it's so brilliant I can't believe no one's thought of it before. The Demon himself seems both witty and fascinating here, and I think that getting away from the constant rhyming will make room for some real development. Fans of his rhymes needn't fear, as Cornell has said he'll still be rhyming at the end of scenes.

Like every good first issue, there are already interesting seeds for stories to come. I can't wait to see the creations of charming inventor Al Jabr, who I suspect may be the book's connection to the Stormwatch universe. Madame Xanadu's entry into this tale has me intrigued, and her new prominence in the DC universe has me especially curious about what her role in the comic will be. Demon Knights #1 works in strong character introductions and world building while setting up an interesting story, and the issue concludes with my favorite last page of the reboot so far.

I've enjoyed many Cornell penned comics, including last week's Stormwatch and his wonderful Action Comics run. However, my absolute favorite of his works is Captain Britain and MI: 13, and this captures the spirit of that title beautifully. While this title never shies away from being a fantasy comic, I implore people who aren't all that into fantasy to give this a shot. This comic avoids the aspects of the genre I find offputting while still taking full advantage of its period setting. For me, this is the best team book of the DCnU bar none, and one of the most promising new titles period.

In honor of Etrigan the Demon, I'll conclude this review in rhyme:

If fantasy tales are what you seek
Then pick of Demon Knights this week
And if you're looking for something fun
Then check out Demon Knights #1

By Marceline with No comments


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