UNEARTHED: Elric: The Dreaming City, Part Two

This panel is just incredible. Minus the captions, this was used as a solicitation ad in another Marvel comic, and I immediately fell in love with Russell’s art. I believe this might have been my first exposure to him and I’ve been a fan ever since.

But holy crap, just look at this. It really sells the epic nature of this summoning spell and gives a glimpse of the unnatural toll it takes on the caster.

There’s so much movement in that final panel. It really display’s Russell’s sense of dynamics in design form. Incidentally, as I write this, I have Alice In Chains’ “Jar of Flies” playing. It fits the tone very well.

The helpless look on Elric’s face is haunting. He’s not merely reciting the spell, it’s more that the spell is using him to birth itself.

I love how Russell has rendered the idea of wind elementals pushing the boat forward. It looks powerful, lines of force converging to strike the sail. And here we’re introduced to the idea of Elric as being representative of some ancient race of humanity that’s dying out.

Russell’s design sense shines through here, too, in the way he constructs the scene with asymmetrical masses. And the one centralized element, the sun, he’s given unusual colors you don’t normally see used. But it, along with the grass-green of the sea, underscores the sense that we’re in an entirely different world.

Notice here the proximity of the blindness-inducing berries to Elric’s own eyes.

More design work in the zig-zag line of trees receding into the distance, the anchoring elements of the near trees being the same color scheme as Elric, Russell is just a master.

Love the contrast here between the decadent Melnibonéan society and their slaves. This is where Elric came from.

This is one of the elements that make Elric unique among fiction heroes: he’s carefully amoral around a lot of fantasy tropes due to his history. We’ll see more of this later.

This character is Tanglebones, a former caretaker of Elric’s who still bears good will toward him, and thus is helping him sneak about.

Great use of vertical panels here. Love the descending staircase represented as just the illuminated steps. Note the ‘silent guard’ here; he’s a eunuch. Hence the lack of bulge in the groin.

As Elric attacks, the narration notes that the guard can’t call for help. But not having a tongue just means you can’t form words coherently. The guard COULD still make loud noises. A strange error.

A really interesting way to present a swordfight, culminating in that extreme angle at the end. Again, great use of color to enhance mood.

And here we have at last Cymoril, Elric’s cousin and beloved. She’s in some kind of magically-induced sleep, I don’t recall why. And I have questions.

In our society, it’s generally not accepted that cousins become romantically involved. But is it commonplace in Elric’s world? Or is it normal for Melnibon√©ans only? Or is it unusual even for that? Or is the author, Michael Moorcock, using it as a way to highlight just how morally different this world is from ours?

And here we have at last Yyrkoon, Elric’s OTHER cousin, brother to Cymoril and usurper of the crown. He’s the one responsible for putting Cymoril into the sorcerous slumber. These two hate each other.

This is another panel derived from a photograph. I remember seeing the original photograph, though of course I don’t remember how.

I love how Russell accentuates Elric’s slender features, including his almost skeletal hands. And here we get a close-up of the intricate patterns on his sword, named Stormbringer. Stormbringer is a whole other kettle o’ fish as we’ll see later. But you’ll notice that Russell, like a lot of manga artists, will only show details on close up. When the camera is pulled farther back, that detail goes away for the most part. It’s a stylistic choice that allows for easier comprehension of visuals.

Here Elric invokes his patron deity, Arioch, Duke of Chaos. This is another aspect of Elric’s world, that there are extranormal entities operating within it. Generally there are two sides, Chaos and Order, and they constantly war with each other via earthly intermediaries like Elric, who accept their patronage in exchange for special powers. More on this later.

Elric wants Arioch to manifest on the earthly plane, and to enact that he must give Arioch the blood and souls of mortals.

Arioch is almost manifest…

… and here he is in all his glory. Keep in mind that this isn’t a definitive form; being a creature of Chaos, Arioch can look however he wants to. But I’ve never forgotten this thing over the decades. Haunting and creepy!

That’s a good stopping point for now. Please join me soon for the next installment!