Thursday, 12 July 2012

'Elric: The Balance Lost Volume 2' - Roberson, Biagini (Boom! Studios)

The Eternal Champion is cursed to forever wander the moonbeam roads of the multiverse (in many incarnations), fighting for both Law and Chaos but always bound to serve the needs of the Cosmic Balance. He will never know a moments peace and will die when an unfeeling multiverse no longer has any use for him. I, on the other hand, get to read all these stories and have a fine time doing so (not having to worry about my own cosmic allegiances and whether I will perish at the hands of my own traitorous sword...) I definitely get the better end of the deal here :o)

The standard of the tales is consistently good, to the extent that I'm now happy to venture outside Moorcock's original books and check out works in the same setting by different authors. Enter one Chris Roberson, an author whose work I have never been able to get into (let alone finish) until he started work on the 'Balance Lost' series. I would have picked these books up anyway, no matter who the writer was, but I thought that Roberson did a very good job with the first volume. Check out my review HERE and you'll see what I mean.

When I saw Volume 2 on the shelves then... Well, I didn't need much of an excuse to pick it up ('Bad day in the office blahblahblah... Oh look, comic book!') and take it to the counter straight away, fighting not to open it and start reading before I'd paid. Volume 2 is a lot of fun again and it looks like some of the issues I had with the previous book aren't issues anymore.

Eric Beck was a computer game designer plagued by dreams that have turned out to be so much more... Beck's dreams are in fact the reality of the multiverse and his many guises as the Eternal Champion. Now Eric Beck faces a fight that he is unprepared for but must succeed in; nothing less than the fate of the multiverse itself is at stake as the Cosmic Balance has been lost leaving Law and Chaos free to drag whole worlds into oblivion. Beck, Elric, Corum and Hawkmoon must travel into realms hitherto unknown, if they are to put things right, and they are up against enemies (of both Law and Chaos) who will take some beating.

The real danger lies out of sight though. Who is pulling the strings that have finally enabled the gods to go to war...?

While Volume One was all about setting the scene (a little bit too much if you ask me...), Roberson lets the story have its head a little here and the result is a pulp caper in all the best traditions of Moorcock. The stakes are high (they can't get much higher in fact) and the action is furious as a result. It doesn't let up for one moment and I found it incredibly easy to keep turning the pages bceause of this. We're talking a lot of fun here, plain and simple.

With the scene having been set, Volume Two has a little more time to get into Eric Beck's head so we can see what he is all about. It's a little disappointing then that we don't get to see an awful lot. It's all about the plot here and that's fair enough up to a point, it would have been nice to get some more characterisation though. I think the assumption here is that readers will know about the Eternal Champion mythos already and probably know the three heroes from several of the books. All well and good if you do by what if you don't? I'd say that these comics aren't a bad place to jump on board but a little more background is always useful. And as far as Eric Beck goes, I wonder if perhaps a little too much time was spent showing us how he displays the traits of the Champion (and not enough time showing us what else there is to his character)...

It's the power of the story that got me through these rocky patches and has me eager to see how it all pans out in the next volume (roll on October!) Biagini's art contributes, in no small way, to the overall affect; you really get to see his imagination run wild in the scenes outside besieged Tanelorn. What I did notice though was that scenes of quick moving action inevitably resulted in artwork that felt more than a little rushed. This was probably the affect that was aimed for but a little bit more polish here would have made all the difference.

Minor quibbles though when you're faced with a comic book that is this much fun. I would have been around for Volume Three anyway but the cliffhanger ending sealed the deal...

Eight and a Half out of Ten

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