30th Mar2018

‘Chronicles of Corum Vol. 1′ Graphic Novel Review

by Nik Holman

Written by Mike Baron | Pencils by Mike Mignola | Inks: Rick Burchett | Colors: Ripley Thornhill | Published by Titan Comics

Chronicles_of_Corum_v1

I wouldn’t consider myself a fan of Michael Moorcock. Besides the wildly popular Elric tales, I know very little of his work. In fact, I have read only one Elric story, maybe. I can’t remember. So when the opportunity to review Chronicles of Corum Vol. 1: The Knight of the Swords came up, I took it. What did I have to lose?

If you’re reading this, you’re probably familiar with Moorcock’s concept of the Eternal Champion. However, if you were like me and had no idea, here we go: The Eternal Champion is a single hero who lives different lives across a vast multiverse. He is the champion of balance. He maintains order.

The most famous aspect of the Eternal Champion is Elric of Melnibone, and probably the least famous is our boy, Corum Jhaelen Irsei, the Prince in the Scarlet Robe. A name like that just rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it?

Corum is the prince of an ancient race call the Vadhagh. They are a long lived people, incredibly advanced in science and sorcery, and everything is going pretty swell for the Vadhagh’s until the race of man invade.

Men trail a bloody path of terror across the world; burning castles, murdering every Vadhagh they can get their hands on, until only Corum is left. In a rage, he attacks a group of men and is captured. As one might expect in this world, Corum is tortured.  He loses an eye and a hand before he escapes with the help of his own magic and a friendly creature passing by. Eventually he is found by a group of men who happen to not be vicious psychopaths and they patch him up. From there he sets off on a quest to stop evil men from destroying what is left of civilization, all the while finding love in a widowed princess, going on grand adventures, and having the ghastly eye and terrifying hand of a demon grafted to his body. Just another day in the life of Corum.

Hailing from the long fabled age of big hair and shoulder pads, the mid-1980’s, Chronicles of Corum Vol. 1 collects the four issue series into a single hardcover edition.

I can’t begin to imagine the difficulty in taking a literary piece and developing it into a visual medium like comic books, but Mike Baron (Nexus, Punisher, Daredevil) pulls off an excellent adaptation. Corum is one of Moorcock’s less successful versions of the Eternal Champion and it’s easy to see why. He’s a fairly passive character throughout the entire book. He literally begins the story without any knowledge of fighting or even sadness. He’s a prissy, rich kid who stands idly by while his people are raped and murdered. He has little clue about world he lives in and relies on others to tell him what to do at every turn. These qualities might be a turn off for a reader more accustomed to the pro-activeness of Elric, but I like this shakeup. I find Corum to be an interesting character not because he’s a hero, but because he’s so privileged that he has no idea what a hero is or what a hero does. The confusion he feels the first time he kills and the first time he feels sorrow, speaking as someone who has never had to fight in a war or know true suffering, I can put myself in his ignorant place.

While the story is great, the real treat here is the chance to see Mike Mignola’s early work. He still has a ways to before we see his classic style on Hellboy, but the harsh lines and gritty tones perfectly fit the brutal world Corum is thrust into. While Chronicles of Corum isn’t horror, it is horrifying. You can see Mignola cutting his teeth while drawing scenes of torture and slaughter.

Obviously, this series is aimed at the fans of Moorcock, the folks who want his “deep cuts” and more obscure characters. But honestly, as someone who knows nothing of Moorcock’s world, I found this story fascinating. I would recommend Chronicles of Corum Vol. 1: The Knight of the Swords to anyone who enjoys solid adventure fantasy.

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