Warning: Spoilers for Future State: Justice League #1 and #2
DC’s Future State might finally be answering a long-debated question about one particular member of the Justice League Dark’s morality by turning Etrigan the Demon into a full-fledged superhero once and for all. The demon from Hell that speaks in rhyme has had a morally ambiguous history, often presented as an antihero with no choice but to begrudgingly help superheroes stop mystical threats on account of being tethered to his mortal host Jason Blood. Future State: Justice League #2 suggests that Etrigan may have finally had a change of heart.
The Justice League Dark story in Future State presents a potential future that sees the titular group broken and splintered after a hostile takeover of the world by the villainous sorcerer Merlin. Etrigan, now conspicuously hosted by Detective Chimp, is among the ragtag group of surviving magic-wielders who continue to resist Merlin’s influence. For reasons that initially remain unknown, Etrigan refuses to actively fight against Merlin or his forces, a decision that other members of the Justice League Dark deem a betrayal.
Future State: Justice League #2 reveals that the reason for Etrigan’s “betrayal” is perhaps more heroic than readers initially thought. When Merlin took power, he forcibly severed the bond between Jason Blood and Etrigan and took Blood as a hostage, making a deal with the demon that he wouldn’t harm Blood unless Etrigan retaliated in any way against him. Etrigan confides in Detective Chimp about his relationship with Blood, stating, “A child of hell and torment. A grotesque thing to abhor. Bound in brotherhood to a noble man who showed me I could be more.” Etrigan’s confession shows that his tethering to Blood has made him more heroic and compassionate than he would probably like to admit, caring enough about his former host to refuse to take any sort of action that would cause him harm.
The final few pages of the story follow through on this idea, as Merlin reveals his right hand knight is none other than Blood, who has ostensibly turned to the side of evil. When Blood reveals his identity to the demon and asks him to stand down, Etrigan rebukes him and refuses to give in to Merlin. Etrigan is nearly killed by Blood for his resistance before Doctor Fate steps in and narrowly saves his life.
The inversion of the classic dynamic between Etrigan and Blood is very intriguing, but the best element is how this new dynamic demonstrates Etrigan’s character development. Stripped of his connection to the partner that taught him what heroism meant, faced with that same man now turned evil, Etrigan finally acts of his own free will and defiantly chooses justice. It’s a far cry from the reluctant antihero Etrigan is usually portrayed as, but it’s extremely vindicating for fans of the character to see how far he’s come.
Justice League Dark’s Future State story is a big shake-up for Etrigan; one that promises to bring long term ramifications for the character and the Justice League Dark as a whole even beyond Future State, if the conclusion of the story is anything to go by. Fans of Etrigan will have to wait for his next move in the pages of Justice League, when the normal book resumes publication in March. For now though, it seems DC’s most famous demon from Hell has taken a definite turn for the more heroic.