Writers: John Byrne, Will Pfeiffer
Artists: John Byrne (p), Nekros (i), Alex Bleyeart (c)
Publisher: DC Comics
When people say that John Byrne has lost his ability to compose a story in comic book format, I sometimes feel as if I should wait for their foreheads to pop open and eject cuckoos. Blood of the Demon is a testament to Byrne's professional skill as an artist and crafter of stories.
Blood of the Demon takes place in Gotham City. Since Tim Burton's Batman films, artists have tried to mimic the architectural designs or worse try to top them. This was and still is a largely futile exercise. What's on screen does not often translate well to the two dimensions of comic books. One of the most noticeable things about Byrne's Blood of the Demon is how Byrne makes Gotham City look like a real place.
Batman authors are often whining about how they don't want super-hero stuff mixed in with the lore of the Bat because it takes away realism, but Batman's hunting ground has not looked this genuine since Byrne rendered it in Superman: Man of Steel where Batman after disappearing informs the Big Red S that "Invisibility is a relative thing, Superman. Sometimes all it takes is a matchless knowledge of the city." The reason why I bring this up in a Blood of the Demon review is that Batman cameos. With this realistic Gotham as the backdrop, Byrne makes it seem that Batman really could vanish amid the sprawling skyscraper skyline and the older gargoyle adorned edifices.
Byrne examines an often overlooked segment of Gotham City that was noted by Batman: the Animated Series. In the comic books, the only mention we have of Gotham City having a press is with the introduction of Vicki Vale, but Vicki Vale hasn't been seen in these comic books in ten plus years. Byrne brings in a tabloid newspaper as a welcome addition to the world of Gotham City. This also lends the idea of Gotham City being a real place and not just a convenience for mega-crossover earthquake ridden stupidity.
Byrne pays a little lip-service to continuity. He preserves the only thing that's arguably in a marginal sense worthwhile from War Games. Batman is again an unwelcome guest in Gotham City, but in Byrne's hands it's almost like he never was. This makes his stealth not just characteristic but vital to his survival, and Byrne makes the Batman far more like original incarnation. He is far unlike the shadow of the psychotic creature claiming to be Batman in the alleged continuity titles and seen in Crapping Toward Crisis Light.
Because I'm so used to padded stories, I expected Byrne to hold off on Batman's appearance until the next issue. I should have known better. A consummate plotter, Byrne builds to the big moment at the end where Batman stands revealed, and brothers and sisters, he hasn't looked this good since Byrne had him in his run with Chris Claremont on JLA. Long ears, long flowing cape, powerful but lithe body. Perfect rendering.
Now, it may seem that Batman takes over Blood of the Demon, but he doesn't. Etrigan and Jason Blood are the stars, and Byrne has produced an interesting twist on the Jack Kirby originals and the more malevolent alter-ego that so-called continuity titles embraced. This twist allows for some swashbuckling occult action as well as some really sick humor that had me laughing like a happy maniac. All of it looks fantastic, and that's what one should expect from John Byrne.
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