Melniboné. The Dragon Isle. A land of Magic and Wickedness, where the blood and souls of human slaves are traded to dark gods for the glory of the ruling elite. Here one may find The Dreaming City of Imrryr, where the Emperors of Melniboné have ruled over all they survey and more for ten thousand years. And in the royal palace, atop a ruby throne, sits Elric VIII – the 428th Emperor.
Cursed by his father for killing his mother as she labored to bring him into the world, Elric seems cursed by the gods as well. Marked by his albinism, Elric is also sickly and barely has the strength to stand unaided much less summon demons or lead his armies in glorious battle. Elric is also marked as strange by his people, for he lacks their typical blood-lust and indifference toward concerns beyond the acquisition of power and pleasure for their own sake.
Only the tender care and magical rites of Elric’s cousin – the sorceress Cymoril – grant him the strength needed to get through the day. This vexes Cymoril’s brother, Prince Yyrkoon, who covets both Elric’s throne and the affections of his own sister! Reports of an invasion of Imrryr by a barbarian fleet may give Yvrkoon the chance he’s desired to prove his superiority. Or it may be Elric’s first step on the road to proving his worthiness as well as his power as a true sorcerer king of Melniboné!
Elric of Melniboné remains one of the most unique characters in modern fantasy literature. He is also one of the most influential, with the stories of Michael Moorcock having clearly shaped the works of other writers who deal with charismatic anti-heroes and dark settings. Elric’s even inspired more than a few songs, some of which were created in collaboration with Moorcock himself such as the 1985 Hawkwind album The Chronicle of the Black Sword.
The original Elric stories have been adapted before into graphic novels and the list of artists who have depicted the character represents a Who’s Who of Great Fantasy Artists. Great writers too have written original tales starring Elric with Moorcock’s permission. And yet, with this grand legacy behind it, Michael Moorcock’s Elric Vol. 1: The Ruby Throne stands as the single greatest depiction of the world of Melniboné in time and memorial.
Who dares make such a bold proclamation? Michael Moorcock himself, who speaks in the introduction to this volume of the skill and splendor of the creative team! He also notes that adapter Julien Blondel made some changes to the story with Moorcock’s blessing. Indeed, Moorcock says the changes improve upon his original tale, telling the story as he meant to tell it. High praise indeed!
And yet, as good as the script is, the artwork is what truly sells this graphic novel. The art in this book is as unique and memorable as Elric himself. It was handled by a team of three artists, with each one respectively attending to the pencils, the inks and any finishes or additions that the third artist felt was needed to complete each page.
Art by committee is rarely effective but one can’t argue with the results in this case. The final effect is reminiscent of many of the stories featured in Métal Hurlant, with the full decadence and depravity of Moorcock’s setting well-displayed. Fans of Clive Barker would do well to check this volume out, as the character designs and imagery are reminiscent of his works.
Michael Moorcock’s Elric Vol. 1: The Ruby Throne is a must-read for all fans of quality comics – not just lovers of weird horror or sword and sorcery! If you’re unfamiliar with the world of Melniboné, you’re in for a real treat. And if you’ve ridden alongside Elric before, be prepared to see his world anew!
Michael Moorcock’s Elric Vol. 1: The Ruby Throne will be released on September 17th.