Friday, April 25, 2014

Retro-Review: The Demon #14!

4810It's time once again for another Retro-Review, in which I grab a comic more or less at random from my collection and read it, reviewing it as I go! This time around, it's Jack Kirby's The Demon #14! It features a great Kirby Kover, showing Klarion the Witchboy casting a spell to make Etrigan disappear, with his cat, Teekl, in the foreground.

The issue opens with a splash page showing Etrigan, the Demon, being called by beasts of the pits, inviting him to join them in the pool of flame, and promising not to harm him. Etrigan, for his part, does not believe them. Obviously, we are in Hell, and Satan's forces are trying to stop the Demon on his mission, whatever it is! The next two pages are a thrilling spread, showing the Demon menaced by Gargora, a she-beast that's mostly comprised of a giant head with snake-like hair, each snake ending in a different horrible head of its own with long tongues. The body of Gargora is comprised of other heads. All of these heads are from Gargora's previous victims. The Demon tries to escape Gargora, but he finds himself clinging to a rock. Suddenly, from a hole in the rock wall, a Shambler comes out. The Shambler looks like an evil Mr. Potato Head with spidery limbs. He opens his jaws and gets ready to bite, causing the Demon to scream in terror!

Suddenly, Jason Blood awakens in his bed. Standing at the foot of his bed is Klarion, the Witchboy, his eyes glowing with evil. Jason realizes that Klarion was the cause of his nightmare, but this realization just causes Klarion's familiar, Teekl, to start advancing towards Jason, growling and spitting. Klarion's managed to return from where the Demon sent him in their previous encounter, but he's back... and he knows that Jason Blood and the Demon are the same person. Klarion takes Teekl back in his arms, and tells Jason that where he was banished to had others who taught him a spell that allowed him to return. Klarion calmly sits in a chair as Jason gets up and puts on a robe. Klarion's expecting guests, and if Blood will be patient, he'll lay out his plan for revenge.

The first guest to arrive is one of the living dead, called by Klarion to be a witness. Jason orders Klarion to make the living dead man leave, but Klarion refuses, instead going to Jason's refrigerator, taking out a pie, and eating a slice of it, telling Jason that the Demon will never put him in exile again. Jason warns Klarion that if he tangles with the Demon again, he'll be in trouble. The rest of those Klarion invited arrive, a veritable legion of shades of the undead... and Klarion casts a spell to transform one of them into a mortal -- in the form of Jason Blood himself!

The duplicate Jason attacks the real one, and if he can destroy Jason, he'll take his place! Jason fights furiously, but his doppelganger bashes a vase over his head, making him lose consciousness. When Jason revives, the living dead are all gone. Klarion tells Jason that if he'd continued to sleep, he'd have vanished peacefully, but now he'll be aware as he fades out of existence. Indeed, Jason's hand starts becoming transparent even as he looks! Jason starts to attack Klarion, trying to force him to reveal where his duplicate is, but Klarion repels him without lifting a finger!

Finally, Jason has had enough... and transforms into the Demon (without even using his chant)! Knowing that time is running out, Etrigan leaves Blood's apartment to search for his doppelganger in the city. His senses tell him that the spirit is attacking Blood's friend, Harry Matthews, and even as he arrives, the duplicate blood is about to cast Harry off of a building to his doom! When the doppelganger sees Etrigan, he throws Harry, but the Demon leaps out and catches him! He returns Harry to his home, but Harry believes that the doppelganger was the real Jason. The Demon realizes that he's becoming more ghost-like by the minute, and rushes in pursuit of the duplicate Jason, who fled while he rescued Harry.

Back at Jason's apartment, Klarion casts a spell to use a mirror to look upon another of Jason's friends, Randu Singh, who is tied up in a blazing room! As he watches, the Demon arrives and uses his cape to blow out the flames. Once again, Jason's friend thinks it was really Jason who attacked. The next target of the doppelganger is Glenda Mark, Jason's girlfriend! The Demon arrives to save Glenda, but by this time, he's faded out to the point where he's not only mostly transparent, but he's also immaterial as well, and can't do anything to stop the doppelganger from permanently taking Jason Blood's place!

And that is where Kirby leaves us dangling, waiting for the next issue... fortunately for kids of the day, the book was monthly, although there'd be only two issues left in its run.

This issue is a bit of a wild ride, isn't it? The first few pages make one wonder if they'd missed the previous issue, until we discover that it was all a dream... and then as Klarion starts revealing his plan, one wonders why Jason doesn't call on his demonic alter ego earlier! It's all in the service of the story, of course.

I have to be honest: Of all of Kirby's 1970s and beyond work, The Demon is one of my least favorite titles, even if its title character ended up being one of the longer-lived ones in DC's comics, being returned again and again (I think the New Gods characters are the only Kirby creations from his time at DC in the 70s that proved more enduring). It's not that I think this is a bad book, by any means... but for me, personally, I much more enjoyed reading Kamandi instead, of Kirby's post-Fourth World stuff. Perhaps if I were to read the series in its entirety, I might get into it more, but I never read it when it was first out, only the back issues I've managed to pick up here and there (hey, if I get a chance to buy a Kirby book for 50 cents -- as I did this one -- I'll do it!).

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