The Dealmaker and the Damned

Exclusive Preview of "Demon Knights #13"

by shathley Q

5 October 2012

In Demon Knights #13, Etrigan's plan for betraying his comrades is finally revealed. But the in-story encounter with Lucifer is eerier than it somehow should be. Is writer Paul Cornell hinting at Lucifer being machine code AI?

No doubt Lucifer is the star of the show of “Torment”, the 13th issue of Demon Knights. Without the usual preening and posturing, with little more than a few words, he is able to shape the actions of the physically intimidating and cunningly vile Etrigan. But is there something more penetrating about writer Paul Cornell’s vision of Lucifer, something deeply science-fictional?

Kevin Slavin in his TEDtalk makes a compelling argument for all of human culture already being in the service of Artificial Intelligence. The core of the idea—that we shape our physical world and our socioculture environment around AI algorithms. He begins by explaining the weird and simultaneous relationship photographer Michael Najjar’s work enjoys with both nonfiction and art. And concludes his talk by proposing that perhaps Najjar’s work is neither art nor fact, but prophesy.

This theme of a strange, fuzzy relationship that ultimately gives way to something entirely unexpected is exactly the theme of “Torment”.

For the first time since their conjoining (decades ago now, in story-time), Etrigan and his human host Jason of the Blood, are separated. But this separation opens Etrigan (and by implication Jason Blood) to influence by a new kind of architecture—the physical environment of Hell.

It’s Slavin’s idea of AI more and more coming to be in control of our cultural arena (as with Netflix making use of AI algorithms to make suggestions), that connects deeply with Cornell’s powerful, but non-posturing Lucifer. The idea that a place, or a condition, can have intent, without actually having a will of its own, and that place can manifest its own avatar speaks to a deeply technological view of both Hell and Lucifer.

Cornell’s vision of Etrigan, Lucifer and of Hell within the confines of the DC Universe is both arresting, and a very necessary expansion of their traditional representations. This is a Hell for an age of social media, a Lucifer after the advent of Facebook. And perhaps the most human portrayal of Jason Blood in decades.

Please, enjoy our exclusive preview of Demon Knights #13.


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