Titan Books has recently released the second volume of 1980s adaptations Michael Moorcock’s famous epic fantasy novels starring Elric. With this book adapting adapting Moorcock’s classic Sailor on the Seas of Fate (really a collection of three interconnected short stories) this collecton adds depth and complexity to the saga of the albino warrior.
In the first segment of the book, readers start to learn about one of Moorcock’s most archetypical ideas: the Eternal Champion. As Seas begins, Elric has essentially exiled himself from his former home of Melniboné, the mythical Dreaming City. But as we readers soon learn, the concept of location is fungible in Moorcock’s fiction. In Moorcock’s world, travel is an existential experience and the seas are places for both metaphorical and physical journeys. and no conventional map can take in the whole world that Elric lives in. It’s not for nothing that this book’s title references seas of fate. Travel takes Moorcock’s heroes to territories that change them to the core of their beings.
The nature of identity is both specific and general in these tales. Sailor introduces readers to Elric’s three counterparts as Eternal Champions, as they and their soldiers travel to a strange and mysterious land in order to battle two old gods. At first I found it confusing to learn the deeper connection between Elric and the his dissimilar counterparts Erekose, Prince Corum and Hawkmoon; however, a deeper examination shows that these are all different manifestations of the same soul, or perhaps the same sense of heroism or ferocity of battle.
It’s striking to see how much Elric bonds with his other Eternal Warrior selves and other peers in these adventures. He’s in his element with men with whom he can empathize and trust, heroic men who are his equals in every way. As Elric and his fellow champions share stories about adventures experienced in worlds different than their own, the diverse heroes seem to converge in a deeper and more significant way than normal human relationships. These are warriors and leaders who are used to being in power as well as being the smartest fighters among their men. These four are the perfect companions in a quest story unlike any I’ve encountered before.
That strength is at force during their confrontation with the otherworldly and terrifying Agak, in a bizarre battle that’s gorgeously rendered by artists Michael Gilbert and George Freeman. We see the Eternal Champion at his greatest strength here; as the lovely sequence above shows, it’s as if they all think with one brain. The sequence continues with a exquisitely surreal sequence that combines yin and yang with the idea of the heroes’ egos. It’s a stunning set-piece that sticks in the memory.
The second and third segments in Sailor are equally as powerful and weird as the first story, just in different ways. In each he has a companion and in each we see many of the diverse things that make Elric such a compelling and unique character: we see his symbiotic relationship with his soul-eating sword Stormbinger; his great mystical abilities; the complex cosmology of the gods and godlike of Melniboné.
I couldn’t put down fantastic book because I was so caught up in the compelling story, outstanding art and fantastic characters. These comics may be 30 years old (and the original stories even older), but they feel fresh as the day they were originally published because the stories they tell are so unique and so character-driven. I can’t wait for the third volume of this series because I’ve become a big fan of Michael Moorcock and his Eternal Warriors.