This issue reveals the origin of Etrigan the Demon and his bond to human Jason Blood. In Hell, lowly Etrigan struggles and fails to make it as a Rhyming Demon. Instead, he vows to rebel.
On Earth, Jason of Norwich is laboring in the service of Merlin as a scribe, but instead of writing his own verses, he is used as a human photocopier, duplicating proclamations by the hundreds. Angered, he causes an explosion. When King Arthur enters, Jason grabs him. Merlin zaps him off the King, but Jason must be held accountable for his impertinence.
Etrigan tries rallying a mob of demons, who at first scoff. But one by one, he kills all challengers, slowly swaying the others to his side, eventually rallying an army intent on overthrowing Lucifer.
Jason is imprisoned for a night, but he is still furious. His beloved Nimue (Madame Xanadu) visits him, but she can’t calm the rage in his heart. Fore-tellingly, he says “There is something in my nature that needs balancing,” and he further reveals that he dreams of unleashing anger and violence. Merlin consults his enemy Morgaine Le Fey who also confirms that something must be done to give this boy a great destiny, otherwise he will destroy everything he loves, including Nimue.
In parallel scenes, Lucifer and Merlin both conspire to find some way to squelch their upstarts, with the two of them eventually coming to an agreement, which leads to Jason and Etrigan being bound as one being, alternating their placement between Hell and Earth.
This origin is pretty much the same as it was pre-New 52. I should note that The Demon’s origin has been retold numerous times and in some cases radical changes have been made, but this one remains pretty faithful and there are some nice homages. One thing in particular that has never been consistent about Etrigan is his rhyming. Some writers slavishly render each line as a verse, while others ignore that and don’t use rhyming at all. The explanaition that he is aspiring to be a Rhyming Demon, but isn’t good at it, is a brilliant compromise. And since this tale is set so far in the past, it can be explained that in more recent depictions, when he does rhyme, one can conclude that he simply got better at it over time.
The story also nicely fits into continuity of the preceding 12 issues, with the recent reveals that Madame Xanadu is one of the Fey and that her name used to be Nimue. We get a kinder, gentler lady here instead of the manipulative witch in the “present” of the series. It’s also nice to get appearances by Arthur, Merlin, Morgaine Le Fey and Lucifer.
The art is very good as well. Camelot looks regal and stately. The detail work is intricate, especially in the Hell scenes, which look amazing!
This issue is a good read as a supliment to the regular title but definitely holds its own as a stand-alone. Though I know the #0 issues this month won’t sell even remotely as well as the #1’s from last year’s launch, I personally have been picking up a few for titles that I haven’t been reading and in some cases have considered maybe trying out the regular titles. If you haven’t been following ‘Demon Knights’ try this issue out. It may convert you!
DEMON KNIGHTS #0
Written by Paul Cornell
Art and Cover by Bernard Chang