Blood of the Demon #1 Review

Reviewer: John Babos
Story Title: Born Again!

Plotted and Pencilled by: John Byrne
Scripted by: Will Pfeifer
Inked by: Nekros
Colored by: Alex Bleyaert
Lettered by: Rob Leigh
Assistant Editor: Rachel Gluckstern
Editor: Joey Cavalieri
Publisher: DC

An Homage to Jack “King” Kirby

The cover for Blood of the Demon #1 is an homage to Jack Kirby’s classic 1972 cover for the series that unleashed Etrigan the Demon on a unsuspecting world.

Its an influence in both art and story that creator John Byrne says has inspired 2005’s Demon series. A back-to-basic, but evolutionary take on Jason Blood, Etrigan the Demon, and the supernatural in the DC Universe.

Does Blood of the Demon #1 deliver? Read on.

DC’s Solicitation

You may have thought Jason Blood was a man possessed by Etrigan the Demon, but BLOOD OF THE DEMON — the new ongoing monthly series written by John Byrne and Will Pfeifer (AQUAMAN, H-E-R-O) with art by Byrne and Bud LaRosa – reveals a whole lot more about their “blood bond” than anyone ever realized!

Etrigan is on a rampage in Gotham City, where a nameless villain needs him to open a portal to another dimension…and will torture Jason Blood endlessly to make Etrigan his slave!

All the rules have changed! Expect pandemonium and mayhem as Etrigan, loyal to no one, takes on otherworldly foes in the first battle of an all-out war!

The Review

The book opens with a brief recap of the DC’s Demon mythology that gives readers all that they really need to know to understand the dynamic of Etrigan and Jason Blood. Its an abbreviated version that is complemented with some exposition by Jason Blood later on that is overlaid on some very cool John Byrne visuals.

For more on Etrigan’s and Blood’s collective past, check out my recent Near Mint Memories column on the subject.

Anyhow, from the brief recap, we get thrust right into the bloody – and Comics Code Authority free – adventure.

Jason Blood is held captive by inhuman beings – are they demons, extraterresials, or something else, we don’t know – and it is through this captivity that a startling change to Demon lore happens. I won’t spoil it for you, but it is an evolution of the mythology that is thought-provoking, intriguing, and opens up a whole new world of possibilities for Blood and the Demon Etrigan.

Stalwarts of past Demon series like Randu the blind sage make appearances in the issue as do some potential supporting characters of Gotham City where Blood resides – and yes, Batman shows up very soon, in issue #3 in fact, with DC’s mage Zatanna in tow.

I particularly liked the “quieter” moments in the issue that reveal the reality, if one can call it that, of dealing with a long-lived supernatural in the DC Universe like Jason Blood. The police actually find a criminal record of Blood’s on file. The catch? Its from 1927!

Very cool.

I’ve never been a big fan of Etrigan, beyond the Kirby issues I read from the 1970s. He’s made for an interesting guest-star in books over the years and I am not sold on whether he can successfully anchor a book. A broader conversation about this subject is currently happening on our DC forum. However, Blood of the Demon is DC’s salvo to popularize Etrigan.

Byrne is beginning to tread new ground with the Demon, and is respecting much of what has come before. It is a book true in spirit to the classic Kirby take, but also cherry picks from modern interpretations, but very much moves forward. This is not a backwards dwelling adventure. It is, however, a multi-genre romp that really pulled me in and this issue could be one of Byrne’s single best DC issues in 20 years.

This new Demon book ascribes to the current editorial approach at DC. “Take what worked from the past and build on it.”

Blood of the Demon #1 is not as jarring a transition as other reinvigorated DC properties. It is a blend of continuity respect and accessibility for a new generation. Its a fine line that finds the Blood of the Demon creative team walking very finely initially, but by issue’s end you see the pace quicken with Etrigan plunging head-first into the 21rst Century.

There are some mysteries still to unravel; some rooted in the past involving the Etrigan’s transformation spell and others involving the Demon’s new status quo. Its compelling stuff.

The book plays to John Byrne’s strengths – plotting and pencils.

Although the book’s graphic violence may be somewhat jarring at times, it is very much part of the current overt visual approach of today’s comic medium. However, its the quieter moments that I mentioned earlier that also from a visual perspective buck the stereotype of supernatural centered books, but also advance the story from the “outsider’s” perspective.

I also particularly enjoyed the “Jason Blood as John McClane in Diehard” action segments of the issue. It has me clamoring for Bruce Willis to reprise the McClane role once again for Diehard IV (which I understand is in the planning stages – tentatively titled Diehard 4.0).

Scripter Will Pfeifer brings a humanity to the dialogue in this issue that contrasts many of the more bloody visuals and the supernatural flavour of the book. It makes for a smooth read and easy comprehension of who these characters are.

Nekros, the inker-formerly-known-as-Bud-LaRosa, complements Byrne’s pencils well and ensures the visuals remain fluid and move the story along unobstructed. The Byrne-Nekros combination is as solid an artistic pairing as one can get.

I also think its worth noting that the brighter colors used by Alex Bleyaert contrast and mesh well with the dark world of Blood of the Demon.

However, I’m not 100% sold on the threat the book ends with Etrigan facing. The gigantic demonic amphibian seems so-over-the-top that its actually less menacing as a threat. We’ll learn more in issue #2.

Overall Blood of the Demon #1 is a genre-melding debut issue that introduces the Demon to a new generation and moves firmly forward in exploring new ground for a 30 plus year old franchise. It feels new, familiar, and definitely inviting.

To chat Etrigan and the Blood of the Demon visit our Demon thread and have your voice heard.

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