Thursday, January 03, 2019

Book-A-Day 2018 #368: Michael Moorcock's Elric: The Balance Lost, Vol. 1 by Roberson, Biagini, and Downer

I looked at a Michael Moorcock "Eternal Champion" comic -- primarily by other hands -- a couple of months ago, and noted that Moorcock made several attempts overt the years to end that series. Well, I'm back with another EC book, from 2011. And that era is, as far as I can tell, well after the point when Moorcock realized the EC would outlive him, and that he only needed to give it as much attention as he felt like at any moment.

What I mean is: he seems to have given up on closing out the series, which is all to the good. What sense does it make to have an ending for the Eternal Champion?

This series is titled for the most popular (and first) incarnation of the EC, Elric, but he's joined by several others -- Dorian Hawkmoon, Corum of the Silver Hand, and a guy from what I probably shouldn't call Earth-Prime named Eric Beck -- to make this another multi-EC story like Sailor on the Seas of Fate and several others. Writer Chris Roberson is clearly a serious Moorcock fan, so he knows these characters and does them all well.

But what I have here is just the beginning. As I understand it, Elric: The Balance Lost ran for twelve issues, and this Vol. 1 just reprints the first four issues (plus the prologue from a Free Comic Book Day giveaway). So the very last pages here see those four heroes, each holding a big pointy sword, probably about to meet through some interdimensional hoo-ha of the kind the Moorcock Multiverse is so full of.

But it hasn't happened quite yet.

So this first volume is all set-up: Elric is wandering between worlds, somewhere in the middle of his career [1], and Hawkmoon is suspicious that his insect-helmeted enemies are resurgent somewhere, and Corum saves his old companion Jhary-a-Conel, and Eric gets caught up in the street thuggery of the Law Party. All are told by a companion that the Balance -- the comic force that keeps either Law and Chaos from completely taking over -- has been endangered, and may be capital-L Lost.

We see that some worlds are overrun by Chaos, and those are full of bizarre monsters and about to collapse into nothingness. Others are overrun by Law, filled with fascists like the ones we learn are led by Eric's evil twin Garrison Bow. And both of those things are Bad, so our four heroes will eventually need to band together to hit things with swords to make the universe better.

For now, though, they're each out on their own, in different worlds, hitting things with swords individually, under the care and tutelage of various mentors, friends, and mysterious personages.  Some of them are hitting Law-things, some of them are hitting Chaos-things, but it's all part of the same problem, and eventually -- around the end of Volume 3, I expect -- they'll manage to find one big thing they can all hit with their swords at the same time and save the balance.

Eternal Champion stories do get pretty formulaic: that's just the way they are. It's fantasy adventure of a particular kind, and generally quite entertaining. Roberson clearly has a deep knowledge and affection for the Moorcock Multiverse, and throws in a lot of little bits from other stories to show that this is one of the big stories that effects everything. Artist Francesco Biagini does the script justice, though I do think he has the standard problem of making Elric look too strong and powerful -- Elric can barely stand up without his sword, and only survives because of it.

So Elric: The Balance Lost is a good EC story, with lots of Easter Eggs for long-time Moorcock fans -- or, lat least, this first third is. Let me see if I can find the other pieces to find out how it comes out in the end....

[1] Elric's timeline is a little muddled because Moorcock wrote his death first and has been filling in middle ever since. There probably is someone -- maybe even Roberson -- who knows how all of the Elric stories are related in time, but that person is not me.

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