Demon Knights 0

Today, Shelby and Tristan are discussing Demon Knights 0, originally released September 12, 2012. Demon Knights 0 is part of the line-wide Zero Month.

Shelby: One of the many things I was confused by in Stormwatch 0 was seeing that the team used to be called Demon Knights. “Wait just a minute!” I cried out indignantly. “Demon Knights is already a title, are you telling me the same team has two different names AND each one gets its own title?” The answer is: I don’t really know. This issue mainly deals with Etrigan, the demon of Demon Knights, and Jason Blood, and doesn’t really address the team as a whole. And you know what? I think that’s okay.

Etrigan is a Rhymer of Hell, in personal service to Lucifer himself. Problem is, no one really takes Etrigan seriously; tired of being pushed around, he decides he will quit his service to the king and start a rebellion. He does pretty well, leading multiple tribes; Prose demons, the Lyrics, he’s making really good ground (I don’t know why the various tribes of demons are named after writing styles, but I bet the Iambic Pentameters are total motherfuckers). Meanwhile, in merry olde England, Merlin is having trouble with his hot-headed pupil Jason Blood. After Jason has a little “incident” involving some of Merlin’s magic, he has to spend some time in the dungeon. Merlin decides to visit Morgaine of the Fey for a glimpse into his student’s future, and it doesn’t look good; unless Merlin can come up with some greater cause for Jason, his rage will eventually build up until he snaps and kills those closest to him. Now, I didn’t know this, but Merlin is the son of the devil, and he heads home to make a bargain: Merlin will trap/bond Etrigan in/to Jason. Etrigan will be out of the devil’s hair, and Jason will have his greater cause of keeping the demon at bay.

For a universe I know absolutely nothing about, this book wasn’t all that bad. It definitely succeeded where Stormwatch failed. Both books focused on one character, one member of the team, but the story of Etrigan and Jason was just that; it was a story. Even not knowing any of the characters, there was a plot I could follow, and by the end I had learned something about a member of this team. Stormwatch’s collection of brief descriptions of past Century Babies left me just as confused as I was when I started, and somewhat frustrated for having wasted the time to read it. Plus, no evil mecha dolphins here, which is always a plus.

This book also had a nice self-awareness to it. A fantasy title like this can easily turn cheesy and hokey, and I think writer Paul Cornell avoided that pitfall by acknowledging it. The whole shtick with Etrigan rhyming everything, for example, could have gotten really old, really fast. But Cornell turned it into a ceremonial function, something Etrigan had to do only when he was on official business; that way we didn’t have to read all of his dialogue in verse. I don’t know if I would have had the patience for that. Plus, everyone in Hell makes fun of Etrigan for being really bad at rhyming.

I was a little jaded going into Zero Month. I know a big reason for DC to re-reintroduce these titles is to hook new readers; I figured I would just read everything, enjoy the titles I’m already reading, tolerate the ones I’m not, and call it a day. I didn’t actually believe I would be intrigued enough by a totally foreign title to want to pick it up. I definitely didn’t believe I would be so intrigued by a deep cut like Demon Knights. What about you, Tristan? As far as I know, you’re new to comics in general let alone this particular title; did you have a good time reading this, or was it just weird and confusing?

Tristan: Unfortunately, it’s been years since I have read any comic books, and when I was younger I always strayed towards X-Men. I was VERY excited when Shelby invited me to help with this awesome project. Secretly, I just wanted any excuse to read some more X-Men, or maybe some Spider-Man. Then I was given the title “Demon Knights”; first I was like, “Huh,” because I had never even heard of it. I went in not knowing anything and came out wanting to know more.

At the beginning it took me awhile to really figure out what was going on, and ended up reading through it a few times. First thing that I realized was that apparently demons in hell spend all their time rhyming. I mean, rhyming demons sounds pretty scary right? Just imagine if Bane suddenly broke out into song: just as scary. Also, I didn’t realize that Jason of Norwich’s last name was Blood until I read your review.

So, Etrigan, one of our main characters, wants to rebel against Lucifer since he is treated like crap. Partly his own fault since he is bad at rhyming. Meanwhile in Camelot, Jason Blood is getting into trouble by trying magic that’s too powerful. Now maybe it’s me, but I thought using the same old Camelot/Arthur/Merlin story seems a bit lazy, but I do see why it comes in handy. It’s rare to find someone who doesn’t at least know who these people are, so the writer Paul Cornell doesn’t have to spend precious time introducing these characters. I pretty much thought, “Man, not another take on these same characters.” I was also VERY surprised that Merlin turned out to be Lucifer’s kid, which I shouldn’t have been since Merlin is a total dick. After learning about Jason’s possible future, Merlin teams up with his father and decides to bind Etrigan and Jason together. This keeps Etrigan in check and gives Jason a purpose, other than killing everyone close to him.

There are a few things that threw me for a loop, the biggest being the spaceship that appeared out of nowhere to pummel Camelot into smoldering rubble. I mean, where does this play into the story, and why aren’t any of the characters surprised by its appearance? I suppose it’s the same reason they are not surprised when a rhyming demon is summoned into their realm.

Though it was a little confusing — and a few parts made me roll my eyes — overall I enjoyed it. It pulls me into the story and makes me want to keep reading the series. If one of DC’s goals was to pull in a different audience into the stories, I would say they were successful. Though I am interested in figuring out some of my many questions, whether or not I put the time and money into purchasing more in this series or just looking it up on Wikipedia is the real question.

Tristan Fickes is a professional nerd, a customer service rep for a video game company in Woodinville, WA. When he isn’t being paid to think about video games, he is thinking about video games and playing with his cat Loki with Shelby’s sister.

For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page.  Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore.  If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to DC’s website and download issues there.  There’s no need to pirate, right?

12 comments on “Demon Knights 0

  1. Yeah, I didn’t even dwell on that slight detail of the spaceship attacking Camelot. I assumed it was something that happened in issue 1? Anyone out there who can fill us in?

    • Yep, in Demon Knights #1 you never see *how* Camelot falls, you’re introduced to all the characters after it is already on fire and we see Merlin curse Jason Blood but aren’t given the explanation as to why. This #0 answers both of those questions. And as for Demon Knights being the precursor to StormWatch, Demon Knights of course takes place during the dark ages so that’s why there are 2 titles based on the same group. None of the members are the same because of the time difference. The real conceit of Demon Knights is that it follows immortal characters from the present timeline (Exorcistos the banished amazon, Etrigan, Madame Xanadu, Vandal Savage, Shining Knight) in a much different timeline

      • Ah-ha. So, if I were a regular reader of this title, I would not have done a double take at the sight of a ship blowing Camelot out of the water.

        Yeah, I read that little “fact sheet” at the back of the book that Xanadu was involved; that’s another reason why I’m kind of interested in picking this title up.

        • It’s a really great book. The breakout character in it IMO is Vandal Savage who is always such a bastard villian in the regular timeline… well he is still a vicious warrior here, but he is often light-hearted and provides the occasional comic relief. I guess the centuries can really change a guy. I would totally suggest reading the first trade, it is really good stuff. It contains one of the weirdest love triangles you may encounter in comics

  2. I don’t know man – acknowledging that your rhyming characters aren’t good at rhyming is just sort of lazy. If there had been any clever verse in here, I would have been able to let that slide and just embrace the idea of demons being forced to rhyme because it’s spooky or something. But the fact that it’s never executed well makes me think it was just too hard for the writing team to pull off.

    • This isn’t anything new for this particular book. Etrigan the Rhymer shows up in Sandman as well; he doesn’t get called out for being bad at rhyming, but he does seem to fill the same role of “guy everyone beats up on.”

      • In The Demon’s first appearances in the 1970’s solo series by Kirby he only rhymed to transform but later Len Wein decided to make Etrigan rhyme all of the time. This was explained that rhyming had something to do with your position in hell’s heirarchy and was retconned in-and-out several times whether he had to rhyme or not. The I-rhyme-sometimes-to-show rank is typically a writer’s way of not pissing off rhyming-Etrigan fans while at the same time saying “I have no interest in expressing all of this character’s dialogue in verse”

  3. Holy crap, so news coming out of an NYCC panel today broke that after Paul Cornell leaves Demon Knights at the end of his current arc and he is replaced by current X-O Manowar writer Robert Vendetti the book will lapse time to 30 years into their future. This is a great concept when you’re dealing with a group of immortals and you want to cleanly pass off to another writer. I know this is a DC site but X-O from the new Valiant is just fantastic for anyone who hasn’t been following and that is the *only* reason I’m not completely bummed Cornell is leaving the book

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