Back in the '80s I devoured sword and sorcery books. It was my Tolkien period. I read the Ring books. I read the Gor books, and I also discovered Michael Moorcock. I had already read the John Carter and Carson of Venus novels. So I was prepared for mixing science fiction, magic and swordplay.
Of course, Moorcock's books were a little different than the novels I was used to reading. I was familiar with the concept of a multiverse thanks to DC Comics, but Moorcock's multiverse spanned and imagined even more and dared to take the reader in places that were uncomfortable. Earth Two at its heart is a very simple concept. Not so the world of Dorian Hawkmoon.
As with any grand design, Moorcock's books were thick with their own jargon and keystones. One of the most brilliant phrases I ever read in a Moorcock book was Mandelbrot Sex. I had no idea what a Mandelbrot was, nor did I know how they had sex, but both words sounded lovely together.
This issue of Elric is rife with the vocabulary and the multiverse created by Moorcock. Certain titles like The League of Temporal Adventurers is self-explanatory, but you can be forgiven for not comprehending what a Morphail Effect happens to be. I don't know what that is, and I had to really, really concentrate to remember Oswald Bastable. Vaguely.
So, if you've never read any Moorcock, you might be a little taken aback by Elric and long for a glossary. However, the story itself is actually very easy to understand. The forces of chaos and law are out of joint, and this results in a resurgence of evil, which threatens the entire multiverse. No matter the form the evil takes, it results in an attack on freedom and the degradation of civilization, which are concepts Moorcock fretted over in real life in Thatcher's England.
Writer Chris Roberson fleshes out Elric's albino hide with a stronger sense of understanding of how the cosmos works. Sensing the disruption of the balance, Elric becomes a champion indeed. His goal is to restore the multiverse, and as he is presented, he is the most heroic he has ever been, while at the same time retaining the complexity from the novels.
Roberson must also be commended for distinguishing each avatar of the Eternal Champion while making their aims the same. That's not an easy task. Oswald Bastable with his period dialogue is a more openly valorous figure as is Dorian Hawkmoon, but Hawkmoon is more mannerly as if transplanted from a Regency book, albeit one with a science fiction grown London. Whereas Bastable is a Boys Own adventurer teased into Moorcock's more bizarre alien landscape.
Roberson immerses each character in their culture, and as a result this is one of the most flattering and skillful tributes to Moorcok that I've read. O'Riley, for example, speaks in words common to her alien saturated aspect, but the reader must figure it out. Don't worry, you won't have to work that hard to understand what "scaling" is, and it's obvious that her soul-sucking gun is a variation on Stormbringer.
Francesco Biagni and colorist Stephen Downer illustrate the words of Moorcock. The twisted castle beyond the "farthest sear" and its inhabitants consolidate Moorcock's description. The bizarre Ornithopter Hawkmoon travels in looks in fact better than the misty version filed in my memory.
Elric subsisted by absorbing the energy from the souls Stormbringer stole. He was essentially a vampire. The classic P. Craig Russell Elric is a somewhat frail figure. Biagni and Dower present him as a lank, fierce warrior slaking his thirst with Stormbringer's strikes, and I find this treatment more valid than tradition.
Biagni and Downer also create their own nightmares, disturbing amalgams of beasts perhaps references to the man/woman creature that climaxes the Jerry Cornelius chronicles. Cornelius was one of the few Moorcock characters not connected to the Eternal Champion cycle. Possibly, that isolation ended the world Elric now travels through.
Elric is a must for any Moorcock fan, and while those unfamiliar with Moorcock's works may find themselves asea, awash in an alien lexicon, if they stick with the story they'll quickly absorb the strangeness and enjoy the rich, textured epic.
Danny Djeljosevic also reviewed Elric: The Balance Lost #2. Read his thoughts, too!
Ray Tate's first online work appeared in 1994 for Knotted. He has had a short story, "Spider Without a Web," published in 1995 for the magazine evernight and earned a degree in biology from the University of Pittsburgh. Since 1995, Ray self-published The Pick of the Brown Bag on various usenet groups. In the POBB, as it was affectionately known, Ray reviewed comic books, Doctor Who novels, movies and occasionally music. Circa 2000, he contributed his reviews to Silver Bullet Comic Books (later Comics Bulletin) and became its senior reviewer. Ray Tate would like to think that he's young at heart. Of course, we all know better.
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