Saturday, July 9, 2011

Elric: The Balance Lost #1

While it was Robert E. Howard's Conan books that first got me hooked on fantasy, it was Michael Moorcock's Elric stories that really opened my eyes to the infinite possibilities.

For years I haunted "Used Book" stores, trying to track down the stories about the strange hero. A prince of Melnibone, the albino warrior is slight of build but fights the forces of chaos with magic and an ebony sword called Stormbringer.

Unlike the stories of most heroes (where a more-or-less happy ending was assured), Elric's stories had a tragic bent to them - which is understandable, since his sword gave him strength by drinking the souls of its victims.

I think I've read all (or almost all) of Elric's adventures, and I'm a big fan. That character has been adapted for comics by some really talented writers and artists over the years, including Barry Windsor-Smith, Roy Thomas, P. Craig Russell and Walt Simonson.

Now the character is back in a new series, and I wish I could say it was great.

It isn't.

The art by Francesco Biagini has its moments, but it doesn't capture the exotic nature or locales in the story - all the art just feels flat, the characters doughy.

But that could be forgiven if the story by Chris Roberson had been compelling. Instead of focusing on the title character, the issue is loaded with sidetrips to different incarnations of the Eternal Champion, one of Moorcock's most clever creations - but here it's like they're trying to squeeze as many characters as possible into one issue. As a result we meet Elric, the modern-day videogame programmer Eric Beck, Dorian Hawkmoon and Corum. Each one just gets a small slice of the story.

Even worse, the modern-day portion features a political subplot that's dopey. Part of that is just me - I generally don't care for political commentary in comics, no matter which side of the political spectrum you prefer - but if you must include it, at least make it intelligent or subtle. This is neither.

Political machinations over kingdoms or worlds is one thing. Modern day political infighting? Yawn.

So, it's all a real disappointment. There's none of the edge, the lyrical mysticism, the dark heroism that are the hallmarks of the character. I have to admit, I'm amazed Moorcock signed off on this adaptation.

All that potential, and so far, almost none of it realized.

Grade: D



Kyle said...

That's dissapointing... I'm also a big fan of Elric. After Conan, reading about a physically weak evil wizard who killed the beautiful princess, renounced the throne, and went adventuring among the barbarians blew my mind... :) I loved the Michael T Gilbert (Mr Monster!) adaption, his crazy style was perfect for Imrryr.

Chuck said...

Kyle, I absolutely agree - I loved the Gilbert version of the character!