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Review: Elric: The Balance Lost #1

Posted By: BrandonBarrows
Wed, 07/06/2011 - 12:37

As life-long fan of Michael Moorcock, I can safely say that I was both thrilled and extremely wary when I heard late last year about the new Elric comic Boom! Studios was doing. I’ve read virtually all of Michael Moorcock’s “Eternal Champion”-related material, of which Elric of Melniboné is simply the most famous, and could say I am something of an expert as well as a nit-picker.

In the 1980s, First Comics published comic adaptations of many of the Elric-related works, as well as the first several books featuring two of Moorcock’s other Eternal Champions, Corum Jhaelen Irsei and Dorian Hawkmoon, the Duke of Dorne. These books were, by and large, very well done and captured the spirit of the works they were based on. They were, however, adaptations not new material.

In the 1990s, DC Comics (under their short-lived Helix imprint) published “Michael Moorcock’s Multiverse,” a 12-issue series of new comic stories written by Moorcock and Walt Simonson.

Are you seeing a trend here and, perhaps, why Boom!’s new series had me both excited and worried? This would be the first, at least that I know of, original comic based on his creations done without Michael Moorcock’s hand ultimately guiding it. I am happy to report that, at least so far, the work is both true to Moorcock’s spirit and engaging.

I won’t spoil any details of the comic, I want all of you reading this to go out and buy it, but the basic premise is that once again the forces of Law and Chaos, who eternally struggle for dominance neither could (or should) ever achieve, have allowed their battle to get out of hand and the multiverse itself is suffering. In steps Elric, who apparently wanders the Moonbeam Roads which connect all times and realities, attempting to set the balance back in place. We look in on Corum, newly returned to his own time and place by the Dark Ship (on which he, Elric and Hawkmoon, among others, journeyed in The Quest for Tanelorn) and struggling to understand what has happened to his world. Finally, we visit Dorian Hawkmoon whose attempt at a “normal” life is interrupted by dark prophecies delivered by his young daughter. In between, we snatch glimpses of the life of a new character, Eric Beck.

As we shift back and forth between these four times and places, the sheer number of Moorcockian characters and elements Roberson drops on the reader is astounding and much-appreciated by a fanatical reader such as myself.

The character Eric Beck is a nod to Elric’s time in our world as Zenith the Albino (unsure if he is Elric dreaming of being Zenith or Zenith dreaming of being Elric) as well as John Daker (an incarnation of the Eternal Champion who lives a mundane life on our Earth, yet has fragmented memories of all other incarnations of the Champion) and the Von Bek (also known as Van Bak, Van Beck, Becker and simply Beck) family whom Elric founded (as Zenith) while journeying through our world. Beck dreams of being Elric, but also of being Corum and Hawkmoon, explaining our peeks into their world perhaps. 

We are treated to many other bits and pieces from Moorcock’s works, as well. Whiskers, the flying cat who accompanies the Eternal Companion Jhary-a-Conel, delivers ill tidings to Hawkmoon’s daughter. The signs of both Law and Chaos are sprinkled throughout Eric Beck’s world. Jhary-a-Conel himself turns up in Corum’s world.

All of these details were woven seamlessly into the main narrative Chris Roberson has constructed, ably drawn by Francesco Biagini. Biagini’s art is smooth and very slightly cartoony, without being part of the Boom! house style of art they have developed recently. It was very enjoyable.

Lastly, while I am typically not a proponent of books having a half-dozen variant covers, all of the covers for this book are simply wonderful. From Tim Bradsteet’s understated, but powerful, rendering of Elric that could easily be a plate from one of Moorcock’s novels to Francesco Mattina’s depiction of Elric which wordlessly conveys all the power, determination and suffering inherent in the character. I do have to say, however, that I’m surprised Boom! didn’t do a P. Craig Russell cover. As an artist who has been so intimately tied to the character’s history in comics, I’m sure Russell’s return to Elric (even if only for a single cover) would have been welcomed by many more than just myself. 

I welcome this comic whole-heartedly and I hope that it continues to be as good years from now as this issue was.