Sunday, 12 April 2015

Review - Elric Volume 1: Elric of Melniboné

Writer: Roy Thomas
Artists: Michael T. Gilbert and P. Craig Russell

Published by Titan Comics

‘Collecting the first volume of the classic adaptation of Michael Moorcock’s bestselling fantasy saga, Elric of Melniboné marks the perfect introduction to the series’ iconic antihero, his fabled blade, Stormbringer, and his harrowing adventures across the Dragon Isle. Adapted by former Marvel Comics editor, Roy Thomas, and beautifully rendered by longtime comics illustrator, Michael T. Gilbert, and the multiple Harvey and Eisner award-winning P. Craig Russell, this definitive collection marks an essential read for all fans of sword and sorcery and brings the Moorcock’s epic tales to life with luxuriant imagination.’

This epic adaptation of Michael Moorcock’s classic story originally appeared in the late 1970s and Titan Comics are collecting the series over several books starting with this volume, documenting Elric’s first troubled thoughts as he sits atop the Ruby Throne to his self-imposed exile – or fact-finding mission, call it what you will – into the Young Kingdoms.

Using Moorcock’s original narrative the story is adapted exceptionally well by Roy Thomas, who manages to capture the written atmosphere of the original and translates it well to the comic. It sticks close to the original story and, even though there were a few moments when I felt that the writing was a little too much and would have preferred much more showing and a lot less telling, it is a great read.

The artwork is of its time and many times I wasn’t overly sure of the design choices. I know that creative work such as this can be subjective and everyone has an idea how things look in their own minds, but I never really felt it grasped the true decadent grandeur of the Dreaming City of Imryrr and the costumes, while fascinating, felt somewhat weird for weird’s sake. If it does capture something its the somewhat twisted strangeness of Moorcock’s work, and that definitely shines through. The thing that may let it down a little is the colouring, which is so stark it’s somewhat uninspiring – there’s a colour dot extravaganza on page 29 – but that’s more because it’s a product of it’s time rather than anything else.

The characters are well defined and Elric especially feels great. The thin, delicate look of the character is drawn really well and there are times when he looks so brittle he could just snap at any moment, especially in the opening pages. Every character is done well except, perhaps, for the tale’s villain Yyrkoon, who’s dress sense and facial expressions make him positively pantomime and difficult to take seriously. Rackhir the Red Archer, also, is somewhat peculiar and when I first saw him all I could think was that he looked like a cyberpunk Robin Hood.

But don’t let that put you off – Elric Volume 1: Elric of Melniboné is a well put together graphic novel that captures the essence of Moorcock’s book and translates it to page with aplomb. It has that right level of weirdness and channels the doom-filled saga of Elric, the key things that I feel makes the books so attractive, very well. I may be a little put off by some of the visual choices, and the narrative may feel a little overbearing for what is supposed to be a visual medium, but it’s stood the test of time and would make a great addition to a fantasy collection, be they Moorcock fans or not.