Demon Knights Vol. 1: Seven Against the Dark by Paul Cornell – Graphic Novel Review [Bane of Kings]

Demon Knights

Bane of Kings reviews the epic fantasy style graphic novel Seven Against the Dark, written by Paul Cornell, and is the first volume of Demon Knights stories in DC’s New 52. 

“A fun, weird graphic novel that will leave you wanting more. Great artwork and a great work of fiction by Cornell, Demon Knights is another strong offering in the New 52.” ~The Founding Fields

Writer: Paul Cornell | Art: Diogenes Neves, Oclair Albert, Mike Choi, Robson Rocha | Cover: Tony S. Daniel | Published: DC Comics | Collects: Demon Knights #1-7

I’m going to be honest with you here. I picked up the trade paperback of Demon Knights on a bit of a whim. I didn’t mind the first issue but when read alone, it was pretty confusing and I didn’t really have a clue what was going on. However, when read as a Collected Volume, I dove right into Seven Against the Dark and really enjoyed it, reading it in one sitting which is the norm for most graphic novels that I read unless they’re Watchmen or Knightfall size, in which case I have to read them in multiple sittings.

Another reason why I picked up Demon Knights Vol. 1: Seven Against the Dark on a bit of a whim was because of the fact I’d never encountered this age of DC Comics before. Not once, and the portrayal of Merlin in the first chapter was something that I wasn’t really used to at all. But did the graphic novel work? Hell yes. In fact, it did more than work. You can count me on board for this series and I can tell you know that my risk in picking up this title paid off.

Set in the Dark Ages of the DC Universe, a barbarian horde is massing to crush civilization. It’s fallen to Madame Xanadu and Jason Blood, the man with a monster inside him, to stand in their way–though the demon Etrigan has no interest in protecting anyone or anything other than himself! It’ll take more than their own power to stop an army fueled by bloodlust and dark sorcery, and some very surprising heroes–and villains–will have no choice but to join the fray!

Etrigan was the only character that I’d heard of before in this collection and I’ve got no idea as to how the other of the Seven fit into the Demon Knights. You can tell that most comics readers are going to be taking a risk in buying Seven Against the Dark mainly because of what I’ve just mentioned. Etrigan isn’t well known, and the Seven that he fights with in this collection are even less so. But I’m glad that Paul Cornell has not only managed to pull off a wonderfully told, Dungeons and Dragons style fantasy epic – the awesomeness that is only made more brilliant by the stunning artwork provided by Neves, and to a certain extent Tony S. Daniel with the cover, which was one of the main reasons why I picked up the book in the first place – I mean, how hard is it to resist a book with a cover like that?

Demon KnightsThe book has also been apparently influenced by The Magnificent Seven as well, which is a huge bonus for me as I think that’s my favourite western film that I’ve seen (Well, the only western film that I’ve seen all of). The influence is largely apparent in the fact that there are seven people aiding a village against much larger numbers, but there’s far more to it than that, and aside from the fact that this is fantasy and not western, and a comic book and not a film, that’s what really sets it apart from the aforementioned film. Heck, nobody says, “I was Aiming for the head,” in this graphic novel either – which was a quote that even saw use in the second episode of Joss Whedon’s Firefly, which is – even with only two episodes that I’ve seen, I think my new favourite show.

What sets Seven Against the Dark apart from the average run-of-the-mill fantasy is the characterizations present in Seven Against the Dark. In most other hands they’d be stereotypes and we wouldn’t care much for them at all, especially with the likes of Vandal Savage, the barbarian among them – but Cornell manages to make them interesting enough so that we ignore the fact that they’re stereotypes.

The graphic novel is certainly one of the most brutal ones that I’ve seen so far and comparisons could easily be made as well as The Magnificent Seven and Firefly (for the characters in Firefly are also to an extent stereotypes that we care a lot about), but also A Song of Ice and Fire by George RR Martin. Or any dark fantasy along these lines – I could mention Joe Abercrombie and Mark Lawrence and you’d probably get what I’m talking about if you’ve read those books. Nobody is safe in this book, anyone can fall at any point – even very young, infant children aren’t spared from the Cornell’s script. The book is certainly not for the faint-hearted, for this is proper dark, epic fantasy. Just the kind that I like.

Verdict: 4/5

My Reviews of New 52 Volume 1s: Teen Titans (It’s Our Right to Fight) by Scott Lobdell, Batman (The Court of Owls) by Scott Snyder, Swamp Thing (Raise Them Bones) by Scott Snyder, Batwing (The Lost Kingdom) by Judd Winick (Total Read Including Demon Knights: 5/52)



Bane of Kings is one our most senior book reviewers here at The Founding Fields, based in England. He’s a prolific reviewer that has contributed to many things here and around the internet.


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