"The Painful Extreme"
Writer/Artist: John Byrne, Will Pfeiffer (scripts), Dan Green(i), Alex Bleyeart(c)
Damn, but Blood of the Demon is clever. The story begins with a hellish replica of Apokolips. Uh-huh. Clever. Three demons torture Etrigan. They could be Parademons, possibly Kalibak. The lady with the whip is an emaciated ringer for Granny Goodness, and Belial stands in for Darkseid.
The kissing scene with the Granny Goodness demon and Belial symbolizes some of the ghoulish fun to be had in this issue. The dialogue from the torture demons and Etrigan's own bad self is a riot and reflects the comedy of the post-Crisis Alan Grant series. These scenes simultaneously make you cringe and make you laugh. As a result, Blood of the Demon plays much in the same way as the highly-recommended Slither.
Blood of the Demon while being funny and grotesquely gory isn't just about providing black humor to instill laughter. It's also about fooling the reader. Byrne shakes off some of that initial One Year Later grue to surprise the reader several times. He does so visually when Merlin meets the homunculus Jason Blood. Byrne's artwork for the scene alludes to some werewolf legends that were later turned into still astounding special effects for The Company of Wolves. He surprises again when the imprisoned Sara Kinkaid meets a stranger, who looks somewhat familiar. Though I'll not reveal my suspicions and keep the possible revelation secret.
Even the most jaded of comic books reader will not expect the conclusion, and Byrne milks this ending for all its worth. He juxtaposes and stretches the "Gone, Gone, O' Form of Man" spell in a series of panels that pay off with a very unexpected transformation.
It's become rather fashionable to trash John Byrne's artwork and his storycraft, but I have nothing but respect for this amazing artist/writer who provides top-quality work on time and with flair. Blood of the Demon continues delight with the power of artwork and unpredictability.
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