[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Writer: Andrew Constant
Artist: Brad Walker
Trapped within a hell zone in Death Valley and separated into two entities, Jason Blood and Etrigan The Demon are forced to work together in a way they never have before to unravel this supernatural crisis.
This uneasy alliance is accompanied by a psychic girl who may hold the key to this mystery, and leads them to their former lover-turned-enemy, Madame Xanadu. The increasingly-unhinged Etrigan is barely restrained by Blood as he struggles to find answers from the amnesiac girl. The girl manages to describe the vain efforts of the military and how very soon they will be under siege by demonic forces.
Finally at the end of his patience, viewing the girl as the real threat, Etrigan breaks away from Jason’s control and burns her alive with his flame breath….
I have read a few issues of DC Comics involving The Demon, this rhyming, demonic version of the Banner-Hulk dynamic in Marvel. My first introduction to the character was not in the books, but on The New Batman/Superman Adventures on Kids WB! in the mid 90’s, voiced by Billy Zane in both roles. I got it then and I get it now. In that episode it was a similar situation as this, but of a different nature. Andrew Constant has painted a very interesting dynamic; Jason Blood is literally face to face with the devil inside him and barely reigning him in. Moreover, it has turned into a buddy cop movie given that neither protagonist are particularly fond of each other, yet are forced to tolerate each other. The writer also tries to inject some humor as to the ways Blood manages to keep his alter-ego in check via threats of butterflies and happy, flowery imagery.
The characterization of Etrigan as a bloodthirsty, vengeful force gets across very well as the contradiction to the old soul of his human host. Having Etrigan only rhyme when he is cutting loose with his powers and his rage works better than having it be his only form of dialogue. It gives off the sense of him using rhyme as incantations to access the full extent of his abilities. Jason, meanwhile, is reserved, patient, and strategic, given his age and experience. He, like Etrigan, has walked the earth for millennia since the curse was thrust upon him, and therefore is not one to quickly jump to conclusions. Further, having shared a body with The Demon for centuries, he knows how to manipulate this creature, thus demonstrating his craftiness and methodology.
Beyond this examination of their dynamic, Constant initially uses the motif of an innocent victim within the protection of the book’s hero, then makes a clever twist at the end of the issue. It’s both shocking and brilliant and sells the volatility of this Hell-born entity. The artwork by Walker is second to none; his character designs of both Etrigan and enemy demons are powerful and creative. The decision to have some demons in jet black with no details save for the crags of red along their surface conveys their otherworldly origins and menace. The landscapes of canyons and pits really gives a feel of it being a Hell on Earth.
The rule of thumb is that every person’s comic book is their first. That being said, while you immediately get caught up in the action, I feel that a synopsis would have been appropriate. There was no immediate dialogue that gave you the gist of the situation; whether that was deliberate to convey the very confusion shared by all within the hell zone or not, it leaves the reader in a temporary state of limbo. That is the only complaint that I can think of at this time.
While stunning artwork and both dramatic and humorous writing, a lack of a synopsis at the beginning of the issue or dialogue that picks up from the first book leaves you confused.