27th Nov2018

‘Elric Vol 1: The Ruby Throne – Deluxe Edition’ Review

by Dean Fuller

Written by Julien Blondel | Based on the novel by Michael Moorcock | Art by Robin Recht, Didier Poli | Published by Titan Comics

elric-ruby-throne-cover

Elric. For me, one of the most frustrating characters in fantasy fiction. For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to like him. I’ve tried reading the books and the comics, but something just never seemed to click for me. I liked the idea behind the character, the settings, and I like Michael Moorcock but, you know, you love the one you’re with. For me, Conan was always my fantasy character supreme. Love the books, love the comics even more. This beautiful looking book though may be my second chance with the character. It looks accessible to new readers, and a quick leaf through shows darn impressive art. Let’s take a look see.

If like me you are a novice when it comes to Elric, a quick recap may be useful. Elric as a character is a creation of fantasy novelist Michael Moorcock, and goes way back to the 1960′s. Although he’s never quite clicked with me I certainly appreciate Elric’s influence on the fantasy genre in particular, but also on pop culture in general. Elric himself is the Emperor of a great but fading kingdom on an alternate world, Melnibone. He is also a sorcerer, and is the classic Faustian anti-hero to boot. His sword, Stormbringer, grants him strength and power, but the price is high as it must be fed with souls. Ultimately, although a good man at heart, Elric has become corrupted by this. Classic fantasy stuff.

As I suspected from my initial leaf through, this book, Volume 1 in a planned series, is a perfect jumping on point. Written by Julien Blondel, it adapts Moorcock’s novel, but makes it more accessible with slight alterations here and there. Nothing too radical it seems, and all the changes have Moorcock’s blessing. The first ten pages do a good job of giving a quick snapshot of just what a dark place Melnibone is, as we arrive at Elric’s court in his capital city of Immryr, and find an Emperor out of step with his people, a man simply not violent enough for most. His cousin, Prince Yyrkoon, actively plots against him. Blondel does a great job of painting just how corrupt and fallen the people of Melnibone are, and how the politics of court poison everyone and everything.

It seems remarkably coincidental that just at the time that Yyrkoon and his faction are actively baying for the blood of their human enemies, some spies are captured within the city. Melnibone cannot be accessed in any normal way, so this points to magical assistance…or an inside job. Hmmm. OK, doesn’t take a genius to figure out Yyrkoon has decided now is the time to set his plan to oust Elric in motion. An epic battle follows with the human barbarian invaders, epic in scope and scale and it sends with Elric betrayed and thrown in the sea to die. He survives, with the aid on an underwater race, but makes a promise that he will one day have to keep. To destroy Melnibone, the source of a growing evil and decadence. Elric returns, to the dismay of Yyrkoon, who has assumed the throne in his absence. Nice try. Things then, amazingly, manage to go from bad to worse, but that’s a story for next time.

This was very good. Elric is on the surface a story about a fantasy king in a fantasy kingdom, yet the themes are universal. Family, blood, betrayal, duty, honour, a good man doing bad things. Blondel puts enough of his own spin on Moorcock’s original story to make this his, and he gets it just right. The Hellraiser like decadence drips off each page, both in the prose and the artwork of Robin Recht and Didier Poli. The art is gorgeous throughout, the battle at sea especially incredibly rendered. The shadows and blacks in the art by colourist Jean Bastide equally vital to the look and feel of Melnibone. This is dark, bad place full of dark, bad people. Elric is a hero, but not in the vein we expect, but then he is all the more interesting for it.

Ok, I’m convinced. Elric, this Elric, is comic book and fantasy gold. Fantastic stuff.

****½  4.5/5

Elric Vol 1: The Ruby Throne – Deluxe Edition is released tomorrow, November 28th, by Titan Comics.

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