Episode Title: Day of the Dark Knight!
Original Airdate: January 2, 2009
One wonderful aspect of the world of comics is the vast tapestry of worlds and genres that can be intertwined. This episode takes us to an oft overlooked corner of the DCU, the medieval realm of knights and wizards and the mythology of Arthurian legends. Additionally, I am always thrilled when I see an appearance of Jack Kirby’s Etrigan the Demon in a story in any medium.
The teaser takes us to Oa where Batman has an assignment to essentially “baby sit” the loose cannon Green Lantern Guy Gardner. When a diminutive alien prisoner insults Guy’s bowl cut, Gardner pours his coffee over the offenders head. Unfortunately for our heroes, exposing this pest to moisture causes him to grow exponentially and Batman has to save the day for the irresponsible Lantern.
The story proper begins with a large scale prison break at Iron Heights Prison with many of Gotham’s rogues gallery wreaking havoc. As Batman is apprehending the would be escapees one at a time, he gets an unexpected assist from his friendly rival Green Arrow. The situation quickly turns into a competition to see who can stop the most bad guys. When the smoke settles, the “score” is tied as one final prisoner appears. The pair each quickly make their play to capture the mysterious figure and win the contest, but this is no average fugitive , but rather the mythical wizard Merlin. The wizard teleports himself along with our pair of heroes back to ancient Camelot, which has fallen into dark times due to the evil sorceress Morgaine le Fey. Merlin reveals that Le Fey has turned King Arthur and his knights of the round table into stone, as well as taken control of Merlin’s apprentice Jason Blood. The wizard tells our heroes that the only way to free camelot from the dark magic is with Excalibur, and he has brought Batman back because he suspects him worthy to remove the sword from the stone (which leads Green Arrow to feel somewhat slighted). Le Fey sends Etrigan (by using the incantation that transforms Jason Blood into the Demon) and a group of beastly minions to intercept our heroes, but bats and arrow dispense with them while continuing to keep score, and continuing to be tied. As they reach the tower containing Excalibur the heroes are confronted with two giant ogres with each here defeating one (and remaining in a tie in this petty competition) while Le Fey and Etrigan appear before them. Le Fey uses her magic to take control of Batman while also equipping him with some very merchandisable magic armor. Le Fey and Merlin have a wizards duel and Merlin sends Green Arrow to stop the Dark Knight. The showdown between Bats and Arrow leads to Green Arrow seemingly plummeting to his death from a high cliff (I think this may be a theme in Arrow’s career). As Batman reaches the sword, Merlin frees him, as well as Jason Blood, from Morgaine’s control. In her anger, Le Fey does her best impersonation of Maleficent and transforms into a massive dragon that quickly turns Merlin and Etrigan to stone. When Batman attempts to draw Excalibur from the stone he finds that he is not worthy, and Green Arrow returns from apparent death to try to draw the sword equally unsuccessfully. The key is for the two of them to put their competitiveness aside and draw it together, which works of course. Using the magic of Excalibur Le Fey is defeated, and all the people turned to stone return to their fleshy glory, and allowing Merlin to teleport our heroes back to their own time. In the epilogue, our heroes decide to break the ongoing “tie” with a race between the Batmobile and the Arrowmobile.
For viewers not familiar with Etrigan, this episode works competently as a remedial course in the Demon and his lore. However, one of the most identifiable characteristics of this character is his pervasive use of rhymes in his speech, and though this episode does use that trait, I don’t feel it does it as effectively as it should or could. I was excited when I saw that this episode was written by accomplished comic book writer J. M. DeMatteis, but I don’t feel that the writing of this episode is any more or less like comics than the previous entries. My biggest criticism of this episode is that the script tries to put a lot of elements into 22 minutes, and though I admire the ambition, it leaves it feeling crowded, and quite frankly, rushed. For people with a deep appreciation for the fantasy genre I am sure that this episode can be amusing, but it certainly struggles to do justice to the complex lore of Arthurian legends and has a difficult time competing with the quality of Tolkien or Martin’s work. Overall, I feel that this episode has slipped a little compared to the three preceding it, but compares well to the first episode. Despite my criticism, I am still very happy to see Kirby’s Demon appear in animation, and not forever trapped on the motionless pages of some of my favorite comics.
Featured Characters: Guy Gardner (Broome and G. Kane, 1968), Kilowog (Englehart and Staton, 1986), Green Arrow (Weisenger and Papp, 1941), Merlin (Rafael Astarita, 1936), Morgaine le Fey (Jack Kirby, 1972), and Etrigan the Demon (Jack Kirby, 1972)
To learn more about Etrigan the Demon listen to Heroes and Villains episode 42