The Story: Give Jason a break, Merlin—the devil made him do it.
The Review: In Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next novels, the titular character observes that in real life, things happen in our lives on a constant basis without any significance at all. She points out, shortly after nearly getting steamrollered by a, well, steamroller, that had such a thing happened in a book, after some one hundred pages she’d discover the event was part of a crafted series of interrelated acts that would affect her profoundly. And of course, a hundred pages in, she would.
Once you’ve experienced a lot of fiction, you realize that there’s no shortage of examples where things happen without much reason or impact—as much because of poor writing as anything else—but by and large, everything in a story happens for a reason. Bringing this back to Demon Knights, the question then becomes: why Etrigan and why Jason Blood? Why did Merlin call upon that particular demon and bind him to this particular individual? Though I’m sure somewhere in DC’s sixty, seventy-odd years of history someone has hit upon this subject before, this seems to be an origin story no one’s done before, which makes this #0 issue probably the most interesting and valuable in terms of pure new material. Aside from the man and demon in focus, we also get some pretty important hints and glimpses into Arthurian Camelot during its heyday.
One of the most important bits might completely pass you by: the fact that Merlin narrates the whole issue, despite his decidedly dead status for the last few issues. Granted, being someone who doesn’t care so much about the linear nature of time anyway, he could be speaking to us at any point before his murder—or even before any of this stuff happened, for that matter. But I think it strongly indicates his eventual return and that he will be even more key to this series as it goes on. As we see, he makes no short-term plans, and their fruit can take ages to ripen.
Cornell makes the connection between Jason and Etrigan very clear; they’re both downtrodden and unappreciated by their dominating masters, and very, very angry about it. But how will this play into the series at large once we return to the present arc? Why should we keep in mind Jason’s rage issues and Etrigan’s rebellious streak?
Still, we cover some major points. Jason and Etrigan are more in less in constant contact, no matter who’s where, which seems to go against our understanding of their relationship from early issues. It’s confirmed that Camelot fell to some extraterrestrial, not supernatural force. Merlin’s demonic nature gets clarified. Xanadu (then Nimue) and Jason’s romance is shown to be fairly legit. And King Arthur is the ideal ruler he’s rumored to be.
Chang is a chameleon of an artist who can adapt to whatever genre he’s given at the moment. He’s no stranger to this title, having filled in on #8, and everything looks as convincingly rendered and fantastical as back then. If there’s one weakness to his work, it’s how, for some reason, he tends to come across small-scale. I’ve compared his art to TV storyboarding before, and I think that best describes my sense of Chang’s stuff; his tight focus on characters and avoidance of backgrounds and sets makes the issue look a bit like a CW/cable show.
Conclusion: I’m not sure the issue makes a terrific case for the special connection between Jason Blood and Etrigan, but it’s a fascinating look into the past nonetheless.