I recently read some Elric comics put out by Boom! Studios a decade ago. They were…fine. Readable and moderately enjoyable, they did not really capture me at all. It was clear that the author was a fan of Michael Moorcock’s Eternal Champion sequence. In fact, the title probably should have been “The Eternal Champion,” as Elric was only one of the incarnations involved. But of course, Elric is the most famous, the name that’s going to sell comics. I wasn’t really expecting much more when I picked up Elric: The Ruby Throne, written by Julien Blondel with art by Didier Poli, Robin Recht, and Jean Bastide. I was pleasantly surprised.
No doubt some of what made the difference is the difference between European comics and American comics. There’s less prudishness. There isn’t the automatic assumption in European comics that the medium is for children. So this is an Elric that leans in to the horror implied in Moorcock’s original work. This is full of moral gray areas. Heck, moral black areas, for that matter.
Something I especially liked about this was the exploration of what Melniboné was. I think our tendency is to imagine it as a glorious, if sadly dissipated kingdom, like something out of a fairy tale. Elric is a sad figure, not only because he is cursed, but because he comes from a once grand civilization that is fading away. However, if you really think about, Melniboné it’s not a faded jewel as much as a rotten canker. It is an evil empire of demon-worshiping wizards who’ve enslaved and butchered those they see as inferior (the humans of the Young Kingdoms). They are worshipers of chaos who thrive on torture, cruelty, murder, and blood. Elric may be cursed to kill all that he loves and destroy his people, but what he does is in service of regaining balance in his sliver of the Multiverse, knocking the forces of Chaos down a peg. This book makes the evils of the Melnibonéans much more clear. They treat Humans as little more than cattle to be toyed with, slaughtered, and consumed. Their cruel inhumanity is on full display. If I were to ever actually run a game of Stormbringer, my use of Melniboné would definitely be drawn from this book. Again, I think it’s absolutely in keeping with Michael Moorcock’s stories, but an aspect that was sort of swept under the rug in favor of other ideas.
The art is quite good and there are some very cool images. I like that Elric and his people look less traditionally European/Medieval than I’ve often seen depicted. These are an alien, pre-Human people and their culture and art are not like ours.
Unfortunately, the other volumes in this series appear to be out of print. I only have the first and I believe there were six. They also do not appear to be easily acquired. Frustrating. Well, at least I’ll have something to look for next time I’m at a comic convention.
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