Okay there are many, many good things about Demon Knights #1. This is a title that I was really looking for good things out of. It is composed of several winning elements and the writer and artistic team on it are top notch. What stayed with me the most though after reading this first issue was one simple panel, line, and idea that is made expressly clear: Madame Xanadu likes it rough.
I’m not trying to be sensationalistic, vulgar, or anything like that. One of the founding plot lines of Demon Knights is that Madame Xanadu, who is thankfully very closely resembling of, and similar tempered as, her recent and brilliant Vertigo incarnation, is both Jason Blood AND The Demon’s lover. She pretends to love Jason so that she can keep up her real relationship, that with Etrigan. Etrigan specifically states, “You’re still fooling him? Telling him he fires your passion?” to which Xanadu replies, “When I really prefer a bit of rough.”
For those unfamiliar with the Jack Kirby created Demon character, basically in the time of Camelot (as in the reign of King Arthur) Merlin summoned the demon Etrigan to help him ward off the forces of Morgan Le Fay and Modred. As Camelot fell though, with not even a bona fide demon from Hell being able to prevent it, Merlin merged Jason o’ the Blood (later simply Jason Blood) with the demon, whose name is Etrigan. Anyway, Jason goes on to become a leading occultist and Etrigan constantly chaffs at being tied to a mortal man (who actually gains relative immortality as long he is connected to Etrigan) even though he ends up follow through on Jason's wishes. They have many adventures together etc. etc. In Demon Knights though, the focus isn’t solely upon Jason and Etrigan. An entire cast of characters is coming together to battle against a profound evil that is sweeping the land…but are forces that are trying to “repair” this “ruined world” evil or just pragmatic? The answer will obviously be unfolding over the course of the next several issues.
For a book looking to capitalize on the current, and very recently current, popularity of fantasy sagas like The Lord of The Rings and Game of Thrones, Paul Cornell’s Demon Knights manages to pull off a fair amount of uniqueness of its own in the realm of fantasy. This is mostly due to the inclusion of DCU characters in an historical DCnU setting. I really bewailed the end of Madame Xanadu’s Matt Wagner penned and Amy Reeder penciled Vertigo series. The series was that good. Seeing her again, with pretty much the same look here, is great. Wagner and Reeder defined Madame Xanadu for a new era just as much as Gates and Igle defined Supergirl. Hopefully some of the character traits that made Xanadu such a great character during her Vertigo stint will carry over into her DCnU persona. Her look definitely has.
Speaking of looks, Diogenes Neves’ art is great. He manages to pack a great deal of detail into his characters outfits as well as expression and body language. He does a great job of creating a medieval world that is packed with authentic looking taverns, castles, and forests that will tickle the fancy of any medieval fantasy fanatic. The only drawback is that all of the characters who look to form up the Demon Knight team are introduced rather hastily and briefly. We’ll have to wait until further issues to really get some serious characterization going, visually.
We’ll also have to wait for further issues to get the characterization going storytelling wise as well. While all of the DCnU books are meant to be perfect “jumping on points,” Demon Knights will be much more enjoyable to those who are already familiar with the characters’ previous incarnations or anxious, like I was as far as Madame Xanadu was concerned, to see how they are going to be portrayed in the DCnU. Besides the fact that we didn’t really need, in an “all ages book,” to know that Xanadu likes it rough…well, the kids didn’t need to know that at least…Demon Knights looks like it has the potential to be a great read. Maybe Xanadu is fooling Etrigan instead? Who knows? I'd like the series to last long enough to find out.