"Demon Knights" was a series that seemed doomed for failure right from its inception; a book set in the middle ages of the DC Universe is hardly a selling point for most superhero comic readers. With that in mind, the fact that it lasted for a full two years (including the #0 issue) is impressive. As Robert Venditti and guest artist Phil Winslade wrap things up in "Demon Knights" #23, it's a reminder of why the series survived as long as it did: it's a lot of fun.
Venditti pulls all the different plot threads together in conclusion of "Demon Knights," with the quest for the Holy Grail, the dreaded Black Diamond, the continued treachery of Vandal Savage and Ystin's slow transformation into a vampire all playing a part into this issue. Impressively, it doesn't feel bloated or crammed with too much plot. Instead, everything moves at a good pace, and it feels like every revelation was set up months in advance.
In many ways, I think that's what makes "Demon Knights" #23 work so well. There are no surprise revelations whipped up out of the blue, no strange, "How did that happen?" moments. Venditti's plotting is strong here, and I like that he's found a way to have multiple plotlines not just intersect, but ultimately play off one another to resolve them all in an elegant sequence of events. Strictly from a story standpoint, I feel that Venditti has crafted something that can best be described as satisfying for those readers who stuck it out until the end. That's a nice respect for the audience.
Winslade steps in to draw this final issue, and while I'm normally a fan of his art, it doesn't feel quite up to par. It's not bad, but it feels rushed in too many places; expressions and poses that could have used a bit more tweaking here and there, sometimes because they just appear rough, other times because it's all a bit off-kilter. Take the moment when the first cannon fire hits the city; Exoristos manages to be in such a strange tilt that it's laughable, while Ystin and the Horsewoman's faces both seem half-formed. On the other hand, Jason's transformation into Etrigan is eye-catching, and the sea of plant life on the opening page looks wonderfully eerie. And once the army's huge fight begins, Winslade draws the sea of limbs in a perfectly chaotic manner that suits the script perfectly. All in all it's not bad, but it did make me wish that Chad Hardin had been able to stick around for one more month.
All in all, it's a good conclusion to "Demon Knights." There's no strange cliffhanger, no major plot thread unresolved, and it all does so in a smooth and pleasing manner. Venditti's handled the cancellation of this title with grace and strength; it's a pity that all series couldn't get those final steps as smoothly as this one did.