Demon Knights #8 gives a fascinating, not-entirely-trustworthy backstory to two of its most interesting characters.
This is the first time I’ve written about Demon Knights in quite some time, and there’s a reason for that. I’ve mentioned it before, but I definitely believe that Demon Knights is a book that will read VERY well in trade, but, as a monthly event, it moves incredibly slowly. My favorite issues of the series have been the ones with concrete ideas, goals or themes that play out over a single issue – most notably, to date, “Merlin Watches the Storm“, the one about Shining Knight’s quest and back story. Thankfully, Demon Knights #8, titled “The Ballad of Nimue & the Demon”, is a story in the same vein, as Madame Xanadu reveals how she came to travel with Jason Blood – and where her suggested romantic liaison with the demon Etrigan comes from.
Framed as a story Madame Xanadu tells her new companions while Jason is wounded and the group travels to Alba Sarum, we learn how Xanadu, Jason and Etrigan began their complicated romance. But, as is ever the case when multiple perspectives are raised in a story, the issue tells us a great deal about their relationship without really clarifying anything at all. Are Xanadu and Jason really truly in love? Is Xanadu more attracted to the confident, powerful Etrigan? Or is she playing a much more complicated game? These are questions Cornell leaves up to the reader, but that’s part of the issue’s charm.
Diogenes Neves is joined by Bernard Chang on art duties for this issue, and Chang proves to be an excellent addition, fitting in well with the style Demon Knights has stuck with and crafting a number of excellent scenes. Though colorist Marcelo Maiolo’s work isn’t as atmospheric and memorable here as it is on I, Vampire, he still manages to make the book pop in some pretty impressive ways.
I finally feel like Demon Knights is coming together. After a fairly rough beginning, the shape of the series is coming into focus and the characters are starting to be a little more than super-powered Seven Samurai stand-ins. Folks who are interested in the series in general but who were warned off by lackluster reviews may find Demon Knights #8 to be a good jumping-on point, while fans who have stuck with the series as a whole should be glad that Cornell has found a tone that works and seems to know exactly where he’s taking the book. This isn’t the best issue you’ll read this month, but it is a confident, engaging fantasy title with a killer cliffhanger.
Spoilers & Speculation
Four months ago, in Demon Knights #4, Shining Knight received a prophecy: “You will soon come to know the Demon Knights!” In that same month, Grifter #4 found Green Arrow, upon learning of the Daemonite Invasion, mishearing and doing a search for ‘demon knights’. This issue brings that prophecy to the forefront, as we are briefly reintroduced to Merlin – who toils away in Alba Sarum, the city to which our heroes now travel seeking aid – before he is apparently murdered… by a Daemonite.
It has taken a long time – too long, I might argue, given some of the pacing issues of the first set of issues – but the metaplot of Demon Knights is finally coming into shape… and I have to admit, the story potentially brewing just under the book’s radar is a fascinating one. I hope Cornell manages to hold the book together long enough to have some fun with it.
Finally, in this issue, we see that Cornell has carried over Morrison’s Seven Soldiers concept of multiple Camelots. Which is to say, ‘Camelot’ being more an idea – that of the ideal kingdom and truly just king – than an actual, single place and time in the world. Xanadu and Jason met at one Camelot; Shining Knight hails from a completely different one altogether, while Vandal Savage seems to recall raiding different Camelots repeatedly over the course of hundreds upon hundreds of years. I’m glad to see this for a couple different reasons, both because I badly want to pitch a Shining Knight series to DC one day that revolves in part around this concept and because it’s a really neat idea that lets different writers play with different aspects of the Camelot Myth without dismissing (or being beholden to) the work that came before them.