Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Demon Knights #1

DC Comics, 20 pages, $ 2.99

Writer: Paul Cornell
Penciler: Diógenes Neves
Inker: Oclair Albert
Colorist: Marcelo Maiolo
Letterer: Jared K. Fletcher
Cover artists: Tony Daniel and Tomeu Morey

Maybe this will read better in the first paperback collection, but as a debut issue, Demon Knights #1—a fantasy book starring characters like the Jack Kirby creation Etrigan and Grant Morrison’s revamped Shining Knight in a medieval DC Universe setting—is a frustrating comic.

Mainly, that’s because the creators spend the first 10 pages—half the bloody issue!—on two preludes with information that may become relevant later on, but contributes nil to the introduction of the protagonists. Did we really need six pages devoted to another version of the “Fall of Camelot” to get the gist of that? Did we need four pages to see the advent of a fairly generic bunch of bad guys? It’s all narrative baggage that won’t be of any relevance to the story until we know what it means to the heroes, most of whom only show up in the latter half of the book.

Artist Diógenes Neves has a pleasant style and gets some good mileage out of the material, to be fair, but overall, you have to wonder what they were thinking. Even as DC is bending over backwards to maintain the $ 2.99 cover price, reducing the page count by 10 percent, Cornell and Neves turn in an issue that takes forever to get to the point and has the kind of storytelling you’d expect from a fast-paced 64-page comic—three of the book’s 20 pages are single-image splash pages, nine more come with three panels or less. Which would be fine if there was a story-related reason for this approach, but most of the big panels seem to be there because Cornell didn’t have time to write a proper script. A generic knight here, a map there—what’s the creative rationale for wasting a whole page on this stuff?

That said, once the main characters actually show up and the story gets underway, the book starts to be a lot more fun. But frankly, that’s too little, too late, and, not surprisingly, there’s not enough space left to introduce them properly. After Cornell’s half-baked Stormwatch debut, Demon Knights is another disappointment. It’s not a bad comic, but by Cornell’s standards, it’s an awfully mediocre start.

Grade: C+

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