Sunday, 8 May 2011

Review - FCBS - Elric: The Balance

This year there were some great titles available on Free Comic Book Day.  The policy of my local shop was that customers could only take one or two titles each so I had to choose carefully.

Being a great lover of all of Michael Moorcock’s work and a fan in general of Sword and Sorcery, Elric: The Balance Lost was a must have.

Produced by Boom Studios it is a teaser story for an upcoming 12 issue mini series in July.  Written by Chris Roberson who has been working mostly recently for Veritgo on titles such as Cinderella: From Fabletown With Love and I, Zombie and art by Franceso Biagini who is an Italian artist and has recently worked on Dead Run for Boom.  Colours are by Stephen Downer who has done a lot of work at DC recently including colouring the Legion of Superheroes title.

The cover art by New York based Erik Jones is probably my favourite of all the FCBD covers and keeps the tradition of high art so recognisable on this character.

This particular genre has been served well of late with Conan and Kull at Dark Horse and Red Sonja at Dynamite. Along with the great Northlanders at Vertigo.  But of all these characters it is arguably Elric who has had the most irregular print history.

Not to say that the attempts at bringing Elric to the comics page have not been without their successes.  P. Craig Russell in particular has produced legendary work on the character (Roy Thomas on writing duty) with beautifully rendered magical and colourful images in the 1970s and 1980s.  In fact the second half of this FCBD issue focuses on the comics history of the character.

In fact the book is split into three distinct sections and in many ways presents the ideal example of what a ‘jumping on issue’ should represent.  The first half of the book is an introduction comic story for the character that highlights his rich history across the Eternal Champion timeline that Moorcock created in the books.  What follows then is the aforementioned potted history of Elric in comics and then five pages of concept sketches for the character and others who seemingly will appear as the title progresses.

The short comics story (only ten pages) sees Elric on a road travelling across country.  He has cause to fight a group of ferociously tusked wild creatures and in doing so introduces new readers to the concept of his soul eating sword Stormbringer (a concept that is central in many of the novels).  This fight is exposition heavy but then again that is nothing new to comics.  This does not stop it being well paced and beautifully drawn.  The art style is more workmanlike than say the Russell style but at least this hopefully indicates that we will get more than an issue a year! 

Biagini serves the story well and throws in some really great touches.  The energy surrounding Stormbringer after the kills looks amazing and serves the drama well.  We then get three splash pages detailing the different versions of The Eternal Champion as a talking crow describes Elric’s different incarnations.  The art looks great on these pages and the writing communicates the different qualities of each descendant.

The story ends in a Kung-Fu the series moment where Elric steps through a portal in his search through the Multiverse.  There is much talk in the issue about ‘The Balance’.  A concept that sets Elric up as the warrior who will help preserve the equilibrium of the Multiverse.

When all is said and done  this issue does what it needs to.  It gives us some great action.  A story that goes (possibly a little too far) in a direction that explains Elric’s back story and sets up the forthcoming maxi series.  We get a cool text piece that explains the publishing timeline of Moorcock’s characters and a neat sketch book that for once does not feel like filler material.

Biagini has a storytelling quality that really works for this style of story.  Along with Mr Roberson’s hitting record for well written and intelligent stories I fully intend to continue picking up this title.

Boom studios really seem to be on top of their game at the moment.  With this title and the new Planet of the Apes series now on my pull list I eagerly look forward to their future output.


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