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Comic Book / Demon Knights

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Demon Knights was a comic book published by DC Comics, initially written by Paul Cornell and later by Robert Venditti. It was launched as part of the New 52 and is set in The Dark Ages of the DC Universe.

After a prologue establishing Madame Xanadu's and Etrigan's roles in the last days of King Arthur, the story skips forward a few centuries. Xanadu and Jason o' the Blood visit a small village in Europe, where they meet Vandal Savage, the Shining Knight, a Saracen inventor named Al Jabr and an Amazon warrior named Exoristos. They join forces when the Questing Queen and her horde attacks the village on its way to sack the nearby city of Alba Sarum. In defending the village, they meet the Horsewoman, who has been protecting it, and afterwards embark on other quests together; some for the nobility of assisting those in need, some for profit, and some for reasons all their own.

The series lasted 23 issues, and shows the origin of the Ancient Tradition of the rebooted Stormwatch (which Cornell began).

Not to be confused with Demon Knight.

This comic has examples of:

  • Against My Religion: The Muslim scientist Al-Jabr is sent to Hell thanks to yet another of Etrigan's betrayals. His version of Hell is a vast desert with a blazing sun, and the only thing available to quench his thirst is a canteen full of alcohol... which is, of course, against his religion.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Madame Xanadu tells Etrigan that she loves him more than Jason, but she tells Jason the same thing.
  • Amazonian Beauty: Exoristos. Bonus points for being a literal Amazon.
  • Ambiguous Gender Identity: Sir Ystin initially insists, despite having feminine features, that they are a man, but later confides that they're actually both male and female after Exoristos professes an attraction to them. During a visit to Hell, their own personal hell was being forced to declare their own gender and sexuality in public, suggesting that they are either genderfluid or nonbinary.
  • Appropriated Appellation: A soldier from Avalon calls the group "The Demon's Knights" in issue seven, revealing the origin of the non-indicative name (see below).
  • The Atoner: Exoristos, first for being thrown out of Paradise Island for some unrevealed reason, and second for indirectly causing the little girl's death
  • Bigger on the Inside: The tower of Camelot is gargantuan on the inside, and is said to be all the Camelots merged together.
  • Blood Knight: Vandal Savage loves to fight, and assists the villagers not because he sympathizes or cares for them, but because it will be a great battle. He betrays them to the Questing Queen just before the siege is about to begin, then betrays the Queen herself once the battle is joined
  • Boisterous Bruiser:
    • Exoristos, who was raised a warrior.
    • Surprisingly, Vandal Savage, whose reaction to a bunch of dragons bursting in to kill them is "Excellent, I haven't eaten one of these in centuries!"
  • Brought to You by the Letter "S": Madame Xanadu has "M X" on her bodice.
  • Call-Forward:
    • (possibly Mythology Gag depending on what official policy on Vertigo Comics is this week): Lucifer is easily bored, and while he's certainly happy to invade Avalon he can't help wondering what the point is. You get the feeling that in a mere thousand years, he'll decide to quit altogether and do something else.
    • At the end of #14, King Arthur calls them his "Watchers of the Storm" and describes them as "eminences of blades, modern Apollos, doctors of magic, an engineer". All codenames from the concurrent Stormwatch apart from "doctors of magic" (which could have been intended as foreshadowing the Doctor from The Authority being introduced to Stormwatch).
  • Cast from Lifespan: Xanadu and Mordru both do this.
  • Category Traitor: A few lines early on suggest that due to her Amazon upbringing, Exoristos sees both Madame Xanadu and Shining Knight as this on the basis of their sex — Xanadu for being the "wrong" kind of woman by Amazon brawler standards and Shining Knight for presenting as male. She gets better, but it's implied this still strains their team dynamic and might have ended her later romantic relationship with Ystin.
  • The Cavalry: The first arc repeatedly mentions that the Questing Queen is only attacking the protagonists because they are between her and the city of Alba Sarum, a powerful city that she needs to catch unawares in order to be sure she can conquer it, and the protagonists know that their greatest hope is in sending a warning to Alba Sarum so that their army can come to their rescue. Unfortunately, all their messengers are killed before reaching the city. After the initial messengers are killed the Horsewoman gets through and the Alba Sarum army storms to the rescue.
  • Chainmail Bikini: Exoristos' 'armour'. Lampshaded: Ystin mocks it, and Exoristos says that when she is fighting against men, as she usually is, it has its advantages. Then this promptly proves to be a bad idea as the Horsewoman shoots her in her exposed stomach for encouraging a girl to do a mission which resulted in her death.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • The Waters of Avalon, a minor detail from the beginning of the second arc, end up being the key to defeating the armies of both Lucifer and the Questing Queen in the climax of the third arc.
    • The Black Diamond that Exoristos took as part of her deal with Lucifer to get released. It causes strife and hatred, ultimately leading to Exoristos and Ysitn's break up, along with causing strife within Al Jabr's city after she leaves it there. Ultimately it becomes the key to defeating the Giant's army and controlling the power of the Holy Grail.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Vandal Savage is quickly becoming a manifestation of this Trope.
  • Clarke's Third Law: Al Jabr, with advanced science from the Middle East, is mistaken for a magician by the townsfolk.
  • Continuity Nod: Horsewoman gets her powers from a force in the blood that binds all animals together. Word of God is that this is the Red.
  • Cool Horse: A White Stallion (with wings) for a Shining Knight.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Ystin (but only in Welsh).
  • Decapitation Required: A vampire army besieging the protagonists can only be defeated by removing the head or destroying the heart.
  • Didn't Want an Adventure: In the first issue, all Xanadu wants is a nice quiet drink. She and her husband are even prepared to share a table with Vandal Savage if it keeps things peaceful. But then a whole horde of dragons show up...
  • Dinosaurs Are Dragons: Played with; the characters call the big lizardy creatures dragons, because it's The Dark Ages, but to the audience they're clearly dinosaurs with no draconic characteristics at all. It’s also worth noting that they make a distinction between "true dragons" (dinosaurs) and "heraldic dragons" (the fire breathing flying ones, presumably. The only "heraldic dragons" we see are mechanical).
  • Egopolis: Issue #9 reveals that Alba Sarum, the great city that the protagonists have been talking about since the first issue, is named for its two princesses: Alba and Sarum.
  • Engagement Challenge: The princesses Alba and Sarum have sworn that they will not marry each other until their city has been declared New Camelot. Unfortunately, when Merlin is murdered it looks like their city will never become New Camelot, but they will still never marry because they made a vow.
  • Eternal Recurrence: The fall of Camelot. "All is lost. Again." Apparently, Merlin helps a King Arthur found a Camelot every few thousand years, and it always ends badly, but he always tries again because the consequences of not trying would be worse. Etrigan and Xanadu were at the fall of knights-in-shining-armour Camelot four hundred years ago, and the Shining Knight was at the fall of prehistoric Briton Camelot 9,000 years before that. Vandal Savage was at the fall of several Camelots, mostly among the raiding forces.
  • Face–Heel Revolving Door:
    • After his plan of stealing money from the Horde goes south, Vandal Savage claims that his Face–Heel Turn was all a distraction to help the village, and not a way to make a quick buck out of the confusion of battle. He later does this a few more times before the series end.
    • Etrigan after the second arc betrays the team and sends them to Hell, but by the post time skip arc most of characters still tolerate him because of his power.
  • The Fellowship Has Ended: At the end of #12, the team is tapped to become the first incarnation of Stormwatch, but for various reasons, the various members decide that they'd rather go off and do their own thing for a while.
  • From the Mouths of Babes: A young child tells Exoristos that she dresses like a tartnote , which Exoristos takes as a compliment, while wondering if it is some kind of pastry.
  • Gadgeteer Genius: Al Jabr.
  • Gambit Pileup:
    • Between Xanadu, Etrigan and Vandal Savage, it's rather hard to tell who's backstabbing whom.
    • Lucifer has a plan for your plan in his plan. As long as it keeps things interesting.
    • And the Questing Queen has a plan that takes advantage of all the above ones.
    • And Arthur and Merlin have prepared for that too...
  • Gender Flip: Sir Ystin/Shining Knight, pulling double duty as a Sex Flip depending on your interpretation, as in other continuities he's been both a cisgender man and a crossdressing woman. (See Sweet Polly Oliver below.)
  • God Save Us from the Queen!: The Questing Queen, the Big Bad of the initial arc.
  • Good Shepherd: After Etrigan claws a local village priest, which is not only a fatal wound but will also drag the priest's soul to hell, the priest spends his final moments trying to find the will to forgive Etrigan, since offering that forgiveness is more important than praying for himself.
  • Handicapped Badass: The Horsewoman.
  • Honor Before Reason: The two princesses of Alba Sarum, Alba and Sarum, have made a vow that they will not wed one another until their city has been declared New Camelot. However, when Merlin is murdered it looks like their city will never become New Camelot, but they declare that they will stick to their vow regardless, even though it means they will never wed the woman each loves.
  • Is It Something You Eat?: When a small girl tells Exoristos, "You dress like a tart," Exoristos' reaction is, "Again, thanks! Is that some kind of pastry?"
  • Kill It Through Its Stomach: Etrigan climbs inside a dragon's mouth to cast a spell and make it explode from the inside.
  • Knight in Shining Armor: The Shining Knight, appropriately enough.
  • Large Ham: Vandal Savage. Cornell said that he wrote him as if he were played by BRIAN BLESSED.
  • Magnificent Seven Samurai: Incredibly influential. The writer even stated he is more interested in the character dynamics than the setting.
  • Meaningful Name: The princesses of Alba Sarum note that Al Jabr is Arabic for "the numbers". (It is actually Arabic for "restoration".)
  • Merlin Sickness: In the vision in issue four, Merlin says that he is aging backward, and remarks that the fact that he is still very old suggests the universe has a few years left in it.
  • Mistaken for Prostitute: A young girl sees Exoristos and says she "dresses like a tart" and Exoristos not only thanks her but asks if it's some sort of pastry.
  • Mugging the Monster:
    • Issue #10 opens with pirates attempting to rob the team as they travel to Britain, unaware of just who it is they are robbing.
    • And in issue #22, a half-dozen thieves attempt to mug them. It goes about as well as could be expected:
      Sir Ystin: We've faced dragons, demons, and a giant sea beast, but you common thieves have us truly scared.
  • Noble Demon: Etrigan, quite literally when it comes to Madame Xanadu.
  • Nonindicative Name: There is only one demon on the hero side, and even he shares space with a human. For that matter, there is only one knight, too. The name actually comes from something Sir Ystin shouted during a vision quest which the rest of the group decided was A Good Name for a Rock Band. Said vision quest was supposed to warn them about a group of Demon Knights. The Daemonites.
  • Not Using the "Z" Word: Robert Venditti's first storyline involves a horde of bloodsucking undead lead by the Big Bad from I, Vampire, but because it's set in 11th century Western Europe, none of the characters know the word "vampire".
  • Older Than They Look: A lot of the human cast have immortality as a factor, but Sir Ystin in particular has been around a long time (though their apparent age varies depending on the artist).
  • Our Dragons Are Different: True dragons are flesh-and-blood dinosaurs, whereas "Heraldic" dragons are mechanical devices controlled by people.
  • Polyamory: Jason Blood and Etrigan are two beings who were magically joined together by Merlin, and who are each married to Madame Xanadu. It sort of works because only one or the other can inhabit the human plane of existence at a given time; the one who isn't on the human plane ends up in Hell during that time.
  • Proud Warrior Race Girl: Exoristos.
  • Queer as Tropes: To a surprising degree. It isn't made a big deal out of, either.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: We have a Muslim tech genius, a paraplegic horsewoman, a lesbian/bisexual exiled Amazon, an immortal transgender knight, a proto-supervillain comic relief, and a demon, his dude and their magic-wielding polyamorous girlfriend.
  • A Rare Sentence: Savage gets "Look! It's a pirate sea serpent! That is something I have never shouted before!" And considering he's an immortal caveman, that's impressive.
  • "Rashomon"-Style: Issue 8, Madame Xanadu and Etrigan each explaining to the others the nature of the romance between Jason, Xanadu and Etrigan and how they each say it began.
  • Rhymes on a Dime: Etrigan, when he's showing off his demon authority or being particularly badass.
  • Sapient Steed: Vanguard.
  • Savage, You Are Our Father: As part of Vandal Savage's entertainment program in Hell. And he's been quite procreative.
  • Screw Destiny: Merlin and Xanadu desperately want to stop the eternal cycle of war and death, despite being urged by others that it must continue this way.
  • Screw the Rules, I Make Them!: The two princesses of Alba Sarum, Alba and Sarum, are able to be a publicly engaged lesbian couple because they run the city. Madame Xanadu is happy for them that they can live their lives as they truly are, but also hopes that the common woman who does not have such power will get the same rights.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: The Black Diamond
  • Seen It All: They are a team of immortals, so they have all seen many things. Vandal Savage exclaims with glee any time he encounters something he has not seen before, or when he encounters something he has not seen for centuries.
  • Serious Business: In Hell, rhyming is very important. Lucifer even chides Etrigan for flubbing a simple rhyme. It's also mentioned there are also prose demons, lyrical demons and "fell editors".
  • Shadow Archetype: The Questing Queen to the Shining Knight; both seek the Holy Grail, but while Ystin is idealistic, desexualized and self-sacrificing, the Questing Queen is mature, feminine and ruthless.
  • Ship Tease: After seeing Shining Knight slay a giant wolf monster, Exoristos exclaims that Knight's performance was arousing. Knight does not quite know how to respond. In issue #14 Exoristos asks if Ystin would like to move in together. Y'know, once they get out of Hell and all that.
  • Shoryuken: Vandal Savage does this to a giant sea serpent in issue #10.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Sir Swearsalot: Madame Xanadu.
  • The Smart Guy: Al Jabr, who is equal parts Guile Hero and Science Hero.
  • Something We Forgot: In #16, Exoristos, the Horsewoman and Sir Ystin are thrown in a dungeon. Exoristos and Sir Ystin are chained together on either side of a wall to prevent them trying to escape. A guard comes and fetches Exoristos and the Horsewoman, leaving Sir Ystin on the other side of the wall wondering where everyone has gone.
  • Speaks Fluent Animal: The Horsewoman, naturally, speaks fluent Horse.
  • Spiritual Successor: To Grant Morrison's Seven Soldiers.
  • Supernaturally-Validated Trans Person: The nigh-omniscient Merlin tells Sir Ystin that he can detect two natures within them, confirming that they are genderfluid. Everyone else in the setting treats Ystin as though they are a Sweet Polly Oliver.
  • Sweet Polly Oliver: Sir Ystin. Nobody is fooled with regard to his sex, however. Turns out Ystin is actually a trans man/genderqueer/intersex/something else, depending on your interpretation of the following quote]].
    Shining Knight: I was born this way. I've kept saying, whenever anyone asks. I'm not just a man or a woman. I'm both.
  • Time Skip: The series jumps ahead thirty years after the events of issue 15. The only character that shows visible change is Al Jabr.
  • Training the Peaceful Villagers: The immortals are going to help the villagers defend their home, but Vandal Savage is also trying to prepare them to assist and show that they deserve help.
  • Troubled, but Cute: Jason Blood.
  • Truce Zone: In #0, Merlin meets Morgaine at "the truce place, by the waters that lead to Avalon". This may well be the future site of Time In A Bottle, from Cornell's Knight and Squire miniseries.
  • Two-Person Love Triangle: Madame Xanadu is romantically involved with both halves of the Jason/Etrigan body sharing. She tells each half of duo that she loves him more than the other half.
  • Unfriendly Fire: Horsewoman shoots Exoristos non-fatally with an arrow after the latter encourages a young civilian to try and sneak through enemy lines during the siege of Little Spring, which resulted in the young girl being captured and beheaded.
  • Unholy Matrimony: The Questing Queen and Mordru are betrothed.
  • Victory Is Boring: Lucifer seems to think so.
    Lucifer: LEGIONS OF HELL — TODAY WE CONQUER A NEW LAND OF THE DEAD! ...Which is very exciting. I suppose.
  • War Is Hell: The series focuses heavily on the civilian casualties and property destruction of combat; when the protagonists are being congratulated on their great and glorious victory (And it was a great and glorious victory, since their actions saved a vast city and thousands, possibly millions, of lives) the “camera” focuses on the dead bodies and burned buildings that came from the fight.
  • Wipe That Smile Off Your Face: Vandal Savage seems to have done this to Jason after the Time Skip.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Vandal Savage kills a village boy when the boy discovers Vandal leaving them to fend for themselves against the questing queen.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: The entire team is surprised when, after slaying a giant wolf monster, it transforms back into a regular wolf. Al Jabr points out that he was not expecting it to be an actual wolf.
  • You All Meet in an Inn: All the immortals unite against the Questing Queen because they happened to pick the same inn to rest at, and that inn happened to be in the Queen's path, though the Horsewoman only met them (briefly) after the inn was destroyed.
  • You Can Turn Back: As part of their centuries-long quest for the Holy Grail, Shining Knight has repeatedly been told by Merlin that they have the opportunity to quit, and that continuing will always require terrible personal sacrifices. Thus far, Ystin has declined these opportunities.
  • You Shall Not Pass!: Exoristos says this word for word as she is the last person remaining that's protecting the village. Then The Cavalry arrives.