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Trouble with Comics

Michael Moorcock’s Elric: The Balance Lost #1 (of 4)

Written by Chris Roberson

Art by Francesco Biagini.

Published by BOOM! Studios. $3.99 USD

I have no doubt that the talents involved here have the best intentions. I’m sure writer Roberson is a longtime devotee of Moorcock’s work, bursting with enthusiasm to get others as excited about the Multiverse as he is. It’s not a cynical enterprise by any means. 

And yet, the result is pretty much the same. Roberson creates a new character, white-haired Eric Beck, game designer, as our window into these worlds of long-maned, grim warriors. Eric is having vivid dreams that he’s Elric of Melnibone. If that’s not bad enough, he runs into a Tea Party-style rally made up of followers of his twin brother, the renamed Garrison Bow (Hmm, G. Beck, foaming anti-progressive—wonder who Roberson could have modeled this guy on?). Before Eric gets his butt kicked, he’s saved by a tough chick, who knows who he is and needs his help to save the universe/multiverse/whatever. Maybe BOOM! is okay with paying Roberson twice for the script for Starborn #1, but I’m not as easygoing.

Oh, wait, this is called Elric something or other, right? Aside from a couple comics adaptations, I’ve never read any Elric—no unadulterated Moorcock—so I was looking forward to Roberson’s take. It’s not so much that he does anything wrong as he makes Elric a mere supporting character in his own book. I’m not talking just about Eric Beck, but Elric gets about the same number of pages as Corum, Dorian Hawkmoon and Jhary-A-Conel. As an editorial after the book jokes, this is like Crisis on Infinite Earths for Moorcock’s Multiverse, but you know, that wasn’t a great series, and it only underscores how difficult it is to write a good story that crams in a lot of similar heroes. I get that Hawkmoon is more of a family man, but Elric and Corum are as yet interchangeably grim, and I had to reread it to even remember Corum. Elric has a nice fight against some imaginatively creepy monsters, and Biagini has a nice line, but overall the work is rather stiff. The main problem, though is just that Roberson has taken on too large a task here. It’s like a bar conversation with a guy who doesn’t want to just tell you about one great movie you need to see—he has to tell you about everything the director’s ever made. It’s overwhelming. This would have been better focusing on Eric and Elric and a simpler plot with a clear goal, working in the other characters gradually, or even in a second miniseries.

—Christopher Allen