Ruler of the most powerful nation of the world, beautiful Queen by his side, prolonged life and worshipped like a God, Elric of the Ruby Throne seems to have it all. But when jealousy causes betrayal by one of his own, can Elric be resourceful enough to maintain his rule, or will his trials lead him to seek help that will bring it to an end?
Adapted from the book Elric on Melnibone by Michael Moorcock, Elric of the Ruby Throne is written by Julien Blondel with art by Didier Poli and Robin Recht and Colors by Jean Bastide. Our story takes place in Melnibone, a powerful nation that has ruled for ten thousand years through fear, intimidation, and in the name of Chaos. Their race is the most ruthless and decadent of all nations and their sorcerers call on their Gods of Chaos for favors of unimaginable evil.
We start with a narration of our hero, or in this case anti-hero Elric. In the form of a love letter to Elric, the narrator is fortelling of Elric’s birth, his upbringing and preparing for the trials and tribulations to come. Due to the chaotic nature of the land, the narrator, who I suspect to be one of the Gods of chaos, warns of jealousy by his father and peers, advises Elric to armor himself for abuse that he will receive and to use it for his eventual ascension to the throne. Finally the narrator ends by foreshadowing the end of the Melnibone and their eventual meeting.
In present time we see Elric in the titular ruby throne from afar, where his cousin, Yyrkoon, is commenting on how pathetic Elric is and lamenting how a once great nation is ruled by such a weak ruler. You see, Elric is not like the other rulers of Melnibone, neither by appearance – he’s a sickly albino – nor by temperament: Elric doesn’t rule by fear and only uses force when necessary. It is this jealousy by Yrkoon that fuels the story’s main conflict and becomes the genesis of the troubles that Elric is to overcome. But Elric is not alone in facing these trials and as he’s accompanied by Cymoril, his Queen, cousin (Yyrkoon’s sister), lover, sorcerer, and court adviser. Unlike her brother Yyrkoon, she’s Elric’s most loyal supporter. She sees through her brother’s false talk and constantly warns Elric to watch out for him. But because of indifference or because he doesn’t believe Yyrkoon to be a threat, those warnings go unheeded until it may be too late.
It’s interesting how the story is told from the bad guy’s perspective as Melnibone is very much the evil empire. Our first conflict sees barbarians, who are simply fighting their oppressors, attack the palace but because Elric is our hero we’re left rooting for essentially the villains. Elric is also not just a paper ruler who only got the job by inheritance. In the fight with the barbarians he shows his fighting prowess and breaks out the sorcery that turns the tide against the barbarians. I don’t want to spoil the rest of the story but throughout the first volume, Elric is confronted by the expected betrayal by Yyrkoon, but is saved unexpectedly because of destinies that are yet to be fulfilled and promises that are yet to be kept.
The first volume concludes with Elric desperately asking for help from a source that he will surely regret and will have consequences on himself and the nation of Melnibone.
If you’re a fan of the source books I would recommend this graphic novel. Although I didn’t read those books, the author has a foreward where he proclaims this graphic novel is the closest to seizing the essence of his books. Also for an interesting dichotomy I would recommend this comic to those who like Robert E. Howard’s Conan books. Even though Elric is very much the antithesis of Conan, the darkness and pervasiveness of the worlds are alike.