With Arrow Video's long-awaited region-free Blu-ray release of Demons and Demons 2 on May 21st, the company has seen fit to give fans of Lamberto Bava and Dario Argento's gore-soaked cult favorites a third chapter in the saga. Demons 3, however, takes the form of a sixty-page comic book, told in two parts, each part included with one of the films.
Written by Stefan Hutchinson and Barry Keating, and illustrated by Jeff Zornow, the complete comic is bound to delight fans of Bava and Argento's films, though not in ways they might expect. For the Demon films are characterized by their clean, straightforward through lines (calling them plots might be overstating things a bit), and their generous supply of blood and bile (red and green – like all great Italian meals). But Demons 3, while it doesn't skimp on the viscera, mixes things up a bit by offering motivation and rationale where the films coasted on ever-growing waves of madness and chaos. The decision is a wise one, and one announced in the part 1's opening sentence: "There are few things as powerful as ideas." Since film is primarily a medium of emotions, while books (and often times comic books) are indeed a medium of ideas, Hutchinson and Keating have smartly let the medium shape their message.
Their tale ebbs and flows, beginning in 16th century France and spanning the period of the films. It follows Michel de Nostredame, a.k.a. Nostradamus – a man whose name has become synonymous with dread, for what many still believe to be apocalyptic visions of the future. In 1528, when, we meet Nostradamus as a young man terrorized by demonic forces, and we follow him to 1564, when he serves as seer to the king of France; with a side trip to 1534, when his blissful family life is shattered by tragedy. To say much more might spoil things; but if you're wondering how demons might enter Nostradamus's world, you've only to consider the type of art that took the place of cinema in those days.
Despite its title, Demons 3 functions as more prequel than sequel to Argento and Bava's work, coming up with a pretty clever origin story for their infamous metal mask and a greater purpose for the one who wears it. Jeff Zornow's art is, for the most part, effective. He's particularly good with gore, gleefully depicting such extreme carnage as demons slaughtering a nursery full of newborns. I could live without Marcus Smith's coloring, but then I find most computer coloring suffocating to line work. (Give me good old-fashioned pen and ink or some smudgy newsprint pastels any day.)
The best thing about Demons 3 is that it opens the door for more Demons sequels, enriching and just slightly expanding the mythology of the movies; and in so doing offering several paths down which successive stories could travel. Here's hoping someone decides to walk those paths soon, in comics, film, or another narrative medium.