Isn't Only One of Them Actually a Demon?
After a disappointing first launch, Paul Cornell proves himself with Demon Knights, featuring the sort of creative and original ideas and character introductions that were sorely lacking from Stormwatch.
A team book set in the Dark Ages is a fairly brilliant idea that really stands out as unique among DC's other offerings, and fortunately, Cornell manages to step up to the potential of that premise here. He wisely starts off with the shared origin of Etrigan the Demon and Jason Blood before leaping forward a few centuries to assemble the rest of the team. The character introductions are fairly well done, especially relative to how other DC relaunches are doing in that regard. We do not get meaty explanations for any of these characters, but Cornell does give unfamiliar readers enough to chew on. He implies Vandal Savage's immortality, Shining Knight's masquerade as a man and Exoristos' Amazonian heritage all without making it feel like we are being fed exposition.
Besides seeming potentially interesting, what makes Cornell's new characters work better here than they did in Stormwatch is how they do not feel like they are taking the places of other characters. Unlike Stormwatch, Demon Knights is a brand new concept that better lands itself to the injection of a substantial amount of new characters into the cast.
There is somewhat of a blandness to many of the characters, though. Rather than speaking in rhyme, Cornall has Etrigan speak uncharacteristically plainly as if he is someone from down the street in the present day rather than a medieval demon. Along with this, Jason Blood comes off as a rather stock good guy with no distinctive personality traits. It is more forgivable for the rest of the cast due to their limited exposure, though. Madame Xanadu is the only one who really shines through with her personality.
There is nothing like child sacrifice to introduce your villains, and Cornell really does that well in this issue. They feel like a legitimate threat to our cast, which is a crucial element in selling the idea of these team of characters coming together.
The art by Diogenes Neves is excellent throughout the issue. The worst thing I can say about it is that Etrigan's redesign is a little busy, but compared to many other DC redesigns, it's really not that excessive.
Demon Knights is one of the gems of the New 52. It takes some familiar characters and presents them in an interesting new context while staying true to who the characters are. It is an excellent blend of new and familiar ideas that all of DC's relaunches should have strove for.