“Demon Knights” issues 0 – 23

Issues #0-15 written by Paul Cornell, issues #16-23 written by Robert Venditti 

Wildstorm Concepts: authority-engineers  stormwatch WildCATS - Daemonites

Although not directly Wildstorm-related, this series features the first Engineer and the first StormWatch, so it thought it was fair to include it here.1-jpg

Demon Knight tells the story of seven heroes coming together by chance to face unlikely odds… But was it by chance? In reality, everything was orchestrated by Merlin, who saw visions of upcoming threats and realized the world needed a team of protectors. It takes place during the Dark Ages, so most of these “heroes” are violent, if not outright amoral. A couple of them don’t stay in the group for long, due to their villainous nature.

The team is comprised by Jason Blood, who can switch places with the demon Etrigan; Madame Xanadu, youngest sister of Morgaine Le Fay; Vandal Savage, the immortal Cro-Magnon; Shining Knight, a remnant of fallen Camelot; the Horsewoman, a paralytic woman capable of communicating with horses; Al Jabr, a wise man and Engineer; and Exoristos, Amazon from the island of Themyscira.

Merlin receives instructions from the Shadow Lords, four beings from the Island of Avalon who instruct him to create the team. He foresees that Jason Blood will end up killing his lover, Xanadu, if his anger keeps on growing unchecked, so Merlin fuses Jason with the demon Etrigan so that their personalities balance each other. Camelot is destroyed soon after, but Jason and Xanadu had been made immortal so that they could live on until the Demon Knights existed. Camelot falls because of the attack of alien spaceships which are never identified, but could they be the daemonites Merlin was warned against?

Merlin is also present when another reincarnation of Camelot is destroyed, for the city is a repeating concept which is always rebuilt again. This time he saves Sir Ystin, a knight with pure heart, and makes her drink from the Holy Grail so that she becomes immortal too. This taste from the Grail will leave Ystin yearning for more forever after, so she sets on a quest to find the Grail and use it to rebuild Camelot. The Grail has been stolen by the daemonites, so Merlin’s actions end up bringing his heroes against his enemies, as he planned.

The Demon Knights first get together to face the Questing Queen, a tyrant who wants to find the Holy Grail to rule the world. She’s headed for the city of Alba Sarum, destroying any town she finds in her way. The Demon Knights happen to be in her way, so the Queen’s advance is finally stopped. This grants the heroes passage to Alba Sarum, where Merlin was staying. But the daemonites had already made a move against the magician, controlling human bodies to remain in the shadows and murdering Merlin.

Sadly, the Demon Knights have no chance of finding Merlin’s killer, so instead they set out to bring him back to life. It is a dangerous quest in which they visit Avalon, the land of the dead, and after they turn out triumphant Merlin dubs them the first incarnation of StormWatch.

The team meets again 30 years later, when the vampire Cain is making his way across Europe with a horde of vampires; he plans to turn the amazons of Themyscira into his own unstoppable undead army. The Knights begrudgingly get together again and stop Cain. In reward, the Amazons of Themyscira share with them the information they have about the Holy Grail; now the Knights have a location. However, when they visit it they find a nest of Giants who work for the daemonites, hoarding treasures that would help humanity if they were released.

Stealing the Grail enrages all of the Giant people and a war is started. The group is forced to take refuge in Al-Wadi, the city the Engineer has built. In there they hold a last stand against the Giants, ultimately defeating them with help of the Grail. They are a proper team, now. They won’t separate again like they did 30 years ago. Those who try to take the Grail, that is, who try to work against good, now have to learn that the Demon Knights will forever be opposing them.

All in all, this is a fantastic series which plants the seeds for the new Wildstorm universe.

Next: Spotlight on StormWatch

Wildstorm in Flashpoint (or How the New Wildstorm Universe was Born)

Flashpoint written by Geoff Johns; Deathstroke and the Curse of the Ravager written by Jimmy Palmiotti; Lois Lane and The Resistance written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning; The World of Flashpoint written by Rex Ogle

Wildstorm concepts: wildcats-authority  wildcats-grifter  team-7  authority-century-babies

Flashpoint is the event which creates the new DC Universe and fuses it with the Wildstorm and Vertigo. It’s centred on the Flash, who after going back in time to prevent his mother’s death, changed the world’s timeline and altered history forever. The book reveals that originally the DCU, Vertigo and Wildstorm were all part of a single timeline, and Dr. Manhattan split them in three to weaken Earth for his invasion. Meaning that when Flash went back in time and changed history, what 1actually happened was that these timelines got back together “like they were meant to be.” It’s better not to think about it too hard. In this new timeline, Wonder Woman and her amazons declared war on Atlantis and took over the United Kingdom. Now flash and the other heroes have to work together to change this apocalyptic timeline and make things normal again.

One of the few Wildstorm characters to appear in the event is Grifter. Cole doesn’t appear all that much, but we get small glimpses into his character, his personality and the ways in which these differ from his previous incarnation.

Flashpoint Grifter appears for the first time in Flashpoint #3, during one splash page in which he welcomes Lois Lane to his Resistance. This continues in Lois Lane and the Resistance, a three-issue miniseries. It is written by Abnett and Lanning, Wildstorm veterans who handled the first year of Authority post World’s End. Grifter appears in the second issue, and he gets to be in the cover! We’re introduced to this timeline’s Team 7, the best black ops America could assemble during Afghanistan: Grifter, Sergeant Rock (from Our Army At War), Lieutenant Reid (Magog), Kate Kane (Batwoman), Zinda Blake (Lady Blackhawk), John Stewart (Green Lantern) and Gunner (from the Losers). Basically, all characters who had ties to the military in the old DCU. All of them but Grifter die on the following page, killed by crazy Muslims, and Grifter needs to be saved by a new character called Britannia (Penny Black). Grifter mentions being a telepath, which makes you wonder how on earth he got his powers. He touches Penny’s armour and apparently establishes a technopath connection which her – which causes him to get a puppy-crush. It feels a bit unbecoming.

Once this Team 7 flashback is over we return to the Resistance, and one realizes Grifter is still wearing the same clothes he wore back in his Team 7 days. Nowadays he’s become an infamous leader. He didn’t plan it, but he had no choice but to assemble a group of weirdos after the Amazons took over the United Kingdom. That does sound like our good old Grifter, who unlike most DC heroes he murders amazons without blinking. In the end the Resistance and Lois Lane reunite with their informant, none other than Penny Black, and they’re ready rush forward to the final battle in Flashpoint #5.

Before the climatic conclusion, however, Cole is seen in a couple of comics. He appears in a montage sequence in The World of Flashpoint #2, while Circe explains that the heroes in this world are no different from its villains; “they are all out trying to shape the world their way. Everything is a matter of perspective.” I suppose that’s as much insight to Grifter’s psychology as we’re going to get. In the following issue of this book, the main character jumps into the final showdown of Flashpoint #5, and Grifter can be seen in a panel killing atlanteans. He’s also seen in Flashpoint #4: he’s behind Enchantress as she speaks about her team, the Secret Seven. Kind of weird, because Cole belongs to The Resistance.

On to Flashpoint #5: Grifter joins the final battle and he gets a double page spread as his group comes to save all of the main character’s butts. Sadly, he is murdered in the following page by Enchantress, screaming “Arzzz.” Make of that what you will.

During the final pages, when Pandora is merging the timelines to form the new universe that becomes the New 52, we get a glimpse of the old Wildstorm Universe in which the artist draws Zealot’s uniform wrong. In a way, that’s classic Wildstorm shenanigans. When they show the New 52 universe Grifter gets to stand in the middle of the Justice League, front and centre; that’s pretty cool.

Another Wildstorm concept is shown in the pages of “Deathstroke and the Curse of the Ravagers”, where there is a woman called Jenny Blitz with the capacity of causing things to explode with her mind. It was written by Jimmy Palmiotti, Wildstorm veteran from “21 Down”. I asked the author on Twitter if Jenny Blitz was a century baby and he said “sort of”, so I suppose it is left to our interpretation.

In the end all the timelines are united together, but Doctor Manhattan steals 10 years from history and reality gets twisted, that’s why everything is different instead of just the old WSU fused with the old DCU. The New 52 timeline is created… and many Wildstorm characters are born again.

Next: “Demon Knights” issues 0 – 23 by Paul Cornell and Robert Venditti

Introduction

With a new Wildstorm universe about to be created, as Warren Ellis announced the “Wild Storm” to be released in February, it seems like the right time to analyse what came before. Many people consider the “real” Wildstorm universe died in 2011, when the imprint was closed and DC rebooted everything. But the characters were far from gone.

As it turns out, the DC and Wildstorm characters had always belonged together! But a terrible villain split the universe, creating the DC Universe and the Wildstorm Universe as separate things. Now that they’re finally together again, their real stories can be told, and dozens of Wildstorm concepts get reintroduced in brand new and unexpected ways. It’s fun for old and new readers alike! That’s my take on it, anyway. It took a while for the “New 52” relaunch to find its footing and produce stories worth reading, and by that point most of the old Wildstorm readers had jumped ship.

My hope with this blog is to show all the Wildstorm stories produced after 2011 tell one cohesive story hidden among the several DC titles, and they develop the characters in ways we hadn’t seen before. I believe they are worth reading, and they just needed a fan to put the spotlight in them. For example, a big point of concern was the Wildstorm characters wouldn’t get to kill anymore, given that the DC heroes are a lot tender. Luckily, this didn’t happen at all; there’s plenty of bloodshed ahead.

Following the example of that great blog, Weathering Wildstorm, I’ll be reviewing several issues at a time, usually by story arc, going through every DC book which features a Wildstorm concept. I’ll try make things chronological, giving it a definite reading order for those who want to pick up where 2011 left off.

Next: Wildstorm in Flashpoint (or How The New Wildstorm Universe Was Born) – by Geoff Johns, Jimmy Palmiotti, Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning and Rex Ogle.