Friday, 18 May 2012

'Elric - The Balance Lost (Volume One)' - Roberson, Biagini (Boom! Studios)

It was back in January this year that I found myself in Plymouth (for a well earned break after finishing up with my job at TFL) and holding a copy of 'The Balance Lost #1'; a comic that I had completely forgotten was on the shelves until I saw it staring me in the face. What? Comic books can fix you with quite the piercing stare, especially when it's a series that you're either already following or looks very intriguing. I hadn't been following 'The Balance Lost' but was very definitely caught by how intriguing it looked to be. If you hadn't already noticed I'm slowly working my way through Moorcock's 'Eternal Champion' books, amongst others, and am always ready and willing to read some more of the mythos. Even if it isn't written by the man himself...

Yes, the title reads 'Michael Moorcock's Elric'... Chris Roberson is the writer in residence here and did a fine job, in general, for the first issue. I won't go into the details all over again, here's a link to the Review instead (that will tell you everything you need to know I think!)
I signed off by saying things like 'The Balance Lost looks like it could well be another title to collect in trade format' and 'The Balance Lost looks like it could be a series worth following then...' I finally got the chance to find out a little bit more, a few weeks ago, when I picked up 'Volume One' during a book binge on Amazon (I must do that again sometime...)

This has actually been a very difficult review to write as the whole of Volume One pretty much carries on the work that Issue One began. Roberson is all about setting events up to let them play out at what feels like a (much) later date. Just like he did in Issue One. To be fair, the longer things go on the more Roberson lets some story slowly bleed into the scene setting and that's not a bad approach to take. Something huge is happening, no-one knows who is behind it but everyone knows what the outcome will be if something isn't done; that's quite a hook to bait a reader with and the potential there has certainly caught my eye. The flip side is that there's a lot of scene setting and character introduction to get through in the meantime. To an extent that worked for me as I got to see fleeting glimpses of favourite characters like Oswald Bastable, and Seaton Begg, but I started to find myself wanting things to just get going. Hopefully that will happen in Volume Two.

Where Roberson redeems himself, for me, is in the sheer exuberance of the plot. It may not be Moorcock writing, this time round, but it feels like it with the manic energy flowing from start to finish. There is always something going on and it usually involves something large and nasty that can only be deal with by the edge of of a sword; that's Moorcock all over and Roberson does extremely well to recapture this tone. It's a tone that is guaranteed to catch the eye of first time readers and make it easy for longer term readers, like me, to settle in quickly and enjoy what is going on.

What I also found myself enjoying a lot more, as the book progressed, was the way in which Roberson was able to tie all the strands of the multiverse together into what looks like it will eventually become a very tight and coherent tale. When you look at the vast scale of continuity, that has grown over the years, you'll appreciate what an achievement this year. I'm not just talking about the cast of characters either. Settings come into it (if it's not the Biloxi Fault then it's still a great permuatation on a theme) and narrative themes, played out across the stories of both Elric and Jerry Cornelius, also play an important role. I think there was a risk that Roberson could have done too much to integrate his story into Moorcock's wider mythos but, in the end, I think he got the balance just right (no pun intended, possibly).

I haven't really got anything else to add about Francesco Biagini's art, that I haven't already said, as there's no real change from what I saw in Issue One. I told you this was a hard review to write... Go back and read my earlier review if you haven't already. What I will say though is that I'm looking forward to seeing what he comes up with next in Volume Two, especially with the plot headed in the direction that it is...

'Elric: The Balance Lost' is more of the same then but what's on display is very well handled indeed and gives me high hopes for the next volume (due in July). Definitely worth a look if you see it on the shelves.

Eight and a Half out of Ten

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