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Chris Roberson and Francesco Biagini’s  Elric – The Balance Lost continues its whistle-stop tour of Michael Moorcock‘s Multiverse, with nominal ‘star’ Elric joining forces with a motley crew of heroes and tricksters hoping to save the day. Existence itself is being threatened by the forces of Law and Chaos, with realities clashing together and countless lives lost to the warping of the Multiverse due to this primordial conflict.

This divide is further illustrated by Roberson having split the heroes into two groups. Elric, Dorian Hawkmoon and Huillem D’Averc find themselves battling the monstrousElric and Hawkmoon by Francesco Biagini perversions of Chaos. Meanwhile the all-too-ordinary Eric from a world much like our own is joined by Prince Corum and his companion Jhary-a-Conel – and they are confronted with the armies of Law. The two groups both converge on the city of Tanelorn, a shared point within the Multiverse existing in a fixed point despite the conflict. However, it is under siege, with the nature of the attacking army shifting depending on the alignment of the respective heroes.

Confused yet? In fairness to Roberson, he goes out of his way to explain all of this. The ideas do follow through from Moorcock’s writings, with characters repeatedly stating that Law and Chaos do not correspond with good or evil. They are antinomies of existence that need to be kept in check – the lost balance of the subtitle is what is causing all this destruction. Corum explains to the befuddled Eric how he attempted to resolve the conflict himself once and for all. His weary account of his adventures is a nice character moment for fans of the fatalistic hero.

Elric #5As per the previous review of this book however, the same concerns remain. Elric – The Balance Lost is in many ways preaching to the converted. Fans of Moorcock are more than familiar with this material. Non-fans may well be left confused, despite the introduction of point-of-view character Eric Beck. It is worth remembering that Moorcock’s work can be read mainly as a critique of the weaknesses of the fantasy genre. The author also had an incredible ability to pump out book after book, so his themes are necessarily broad and the plots written for effect. The adventures of Hawkmoon, Elric and Corum are written to entertain, but also shock, titillate and mock a series of literary targets. The Balance Lost feels disappointingly literal in many ways, trying to nail down an essence of Moorcock that’s just far too tricksy.

Having all the different Moorcock toys running about in the one sandbox is a treat though, and perhaps that is how all this should be seen as: a treat for fans of the original works, inviting the curiosity of new readers. It is also great to see Biagini handed such diverse material to illustrate and he does a fine job. There’s gigantic evil gods, armies of mutated Chaos minions, fleets of skyships, the well-named horse ‘Splendid Mane’. If this book is a gift for fans, it is also an invitation for its artist to cut loose and bring the phantasmagoria of Moorcock to colourful life.

It still makes little sense why the series is named after Elric, but then he is the most popular of Moorcock’s creations. Given the number of characters in fiction inspired by him, I wonder where a series pitting various sword-wielding albino anti-heroes against one another would go. There’s a crossover idea folks. Throw Jim Starlin’s Warlock in there too and it’ll be the a great laugh!

Publisher Boom! Studios have also released a trade of the opening arc of The Balance Lost for those of you interested in catching up on all the happenings in the Multiverse.

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