Before I begin, let me first say this issue is a great jumping on point, if you are interested in a fun, motley super team’s exploits. It’s the start of a new quest as this gathering of disparate personalities get to know more about one another, and don’t always like what they find.
The team is summoned to the kingdom of Alba Sarum, ruled by two princesses who happen to be named Alba and Sarum. Along with their adviser, Lord Gadfrey, they break down who these Demon Knights are for new readers. Of course there is Etrigan the Demon, duplicitous psychic Madame Xanadu, noble engineer Al Jabr, drunk, immortal cave man Vandal Savage (not yet the villain he will become), Exoristos the exiled Amazon, enigmatic Horsewoman and finally, the androgenous Shining Knight, who suffers from a plague similar to vampirism.
As soon as they arrive, the more intuitive among them sense the people of Alba Sarum are in mourning, most keenly the Shining Knight. Of course this rag tag band can’t even get within the kingdom’s gates without breaking into a brawl, between Savage and Al Jabr. They are broken up by the palace guards. In a not-at-all-subtle political comment, the two princesses are betrothed to one another. Etrigan explains that they had “written the laws themselves to allow that.” Xanadu replies, “I hope common girls get the same.” However, the princesses will not marry unless Alba Sarum is declared “The New Camelot.” And they came so close!
They reveal the reason they summoned the Demon Knights… Merlin had taken up residence there and has been murdered, apparently by one of his students who then took his own life. The team members all have different reactions. Etrigan is devastated that he was so close to finding Merlin and asking him to lift his enchantment. Out of anger and frustration, he threatens to dismember Merlin’s corpse. The Shining Knight is simply distraught. Xanadu however discusses Avalon, how she chose not to go there but that she thinks she can get them inside and save Merlin’s life. They make plans and the princesses provide them with a boat to sail to England.
Boarding the boat, Exoristos and the Shining Knight discuss the idea that they are essentially working as mercenaries. The Shining Knight states that s/he is on a quest regardless of the money. Exoristos seems she has found a purpose for the first time since her exile. Al Jabr is a bit concerned that his Muslim faith could cause problems for him in Avalon, which is essentially the afterlife. He also clarifies with Gadfrey that their accepting this mission absolves them all, especially Vandal Savage. Sarum gives Etrigan a scrying glass to stay in touch. “Sail off with the ship and weapons, we’ll know and we will find you.” Etrigan solemnly replies, “I give you my word,” to which Sarum replies “Don’t be ridiculous.”
And they’re off! Since the ship is enchanted, it can be captained by just one person, in this case Vandal. Etrigan must revert to Jason Blood. The Shining Knight talks to his winged steed, who talks back. The horse has gleaned information from Horsewoman’s steed, whom she tells everything. He is about to caution the Knight when a drunk Exoristos interupts them. Just then, the ship is besieged by a sea serpent. That’s not the only twist. It seems there is a traitor among the team!
Is this my favorite book out there? No, but it’s really good, with solid writing, unique, interesting characters and crisp art. Like I said, this is a great jumping on point, being the start of a new storyline. The first storyline (which began way back here!) dragged a little too long for me, but was filled with twists and betrayals. So, here’s hoping this story is a bit more concentrated. But this is a really strong book that needs to find a larger audience.
DEMON KNIGHTS #9
Written by Paul Cornell
Art by Diogenes Neves with Robson Rocha
Cover by Michael Choi