It all comes down to this. Elric vs Yyrkoon for the life and love of Cymoril! Who will emerge victorious? Remember: this is a gothic fantasy series. That should tell you everything you need to know. If you haven’t read Parts One through Three yet, start from the beginning here.
Yyrkoon wields another soul-eating sword, Mournblade. The novel’s text really elaborates on how evil and sinister these swords are. You don’t get the full effect here in the comic, unfortunately. Essentially, these blades are sentient beings that just take the forms of swords on Elric’s plane of existence. They might even be sapient, but I can’t confirm that.
And apparently the two swords hate each other. They seem to wield the swordholder, not the other way around.
And remember that these are broadswords, really heavy examples of the form. They don’t appear to be particularly sharp, but their otherworldliness allows them to bite flesh and pierce armor regardless.
Keep in mind that these swords also give their wielders supernatural vitality, so normal wounds don’t automatically spell the end. In Elric’s case, his sword Stormbringer also just helps him live, as his ordinary feeble state otherwise renders him weak in everyday life.
Yyrkoon is mad, bad, and dangerous to know. At some point in their battle, Elric catches a glimpse of Cymoril’s unconscious form behind his cousin, and for some reason this is Yyrkoon’s response. Again, the novel goes into greater detail.
And then we get this gorgeous vertical panel.
It’s not made clear here why they’re ‘doomed for eternity’, and this ‘damsel in distress’ bit isn’t interesting or unique, but it does fit the genre. And if you examine the position of Elric’s hands in the final panel, you’ll see they’re at odds with where the blade’s pommel would be. But hey, it’s a small detail, given the luxuriousness of all the other great work in this graphic novel.
So maybe this is playing into Yyrkoon’s hands somehow? More clarity would be welcome.
Oh… oh no.
And now Cymoril’s in Hell. Or something. It’s not really evident what happens when Stormbringer drinks someone’s soul. It’s just bad, okay?
Horrific! But also, beautiful!
Something you don’t always get to do in comics: let’s look at how Russell composes this shot. His use of opposing angles adds to the chaos of Elric’s emotions, even as the circular elements give a lovely ornamentation to the panel. These things you might not necessarily notice as you look at his artwork, but you feel it subconsciously.
This is a beautiful panel, lovely use of somber colors, even if Elric’s teeth are perhaps a bit too small.
So, with nothing left but ashes in his mouth, Elric escapes the Dreaming City, now ablaze as per his earlier wishes. Of course it’s a sad ending for him, what else could it have been? But it’s not over yet. There’s more angst to come! Woot!
Just amazing harmony of colors here.
Well, a brooding hero must brood appropriately, right?
Yet Imrryr’s defense is not ready to let the invading army escape just yet.
These things are the size of our modern cruise vessels.
Once again, you can tell which panels are based on photographs of real people. But that doesn’t deny their grandeur, or Russell’s amazing color sense lending an eldritch tone to spellcasting.
I love that top panel! Elric’s face in profile seemingly continent-sized as he invokes the supernatural powers of the air elementals to help him and his crew escape. But not everyone gets away!
And I believe this is no ordinary fire; more likely the ‘Greek fire’ we get tales of from our own historical treatises. It doesn’t burn like ordinary flames do; it’s more like napalm.
If that weren’t enough, now Elric’s fleet is pursued by dragons. But what dragons! They’re like a cross between snakes and bats, with the colors and patterns of butterflies. Gorgeous!
Here Elric makes the selfish play and takes away the winds propelling his fleet, channeling it all into one mighty gust that can save only his personal ship. I love that ‘V’ panel. Such an amazing pose.
Bad enough Elric’s lost his love and had his victory taken from him by Yyrkoon, now he’s made a coward of himself and everyone on-board knows it.
Later, in safer waters, Elric decides to finally rid himself of Stormbringer, a blade which has brought him nothing but cursed misfortune. But like a junkie, he knows he cannot live without the evil thing. He leaps overboard to retrieve it, much to the relief of his shipmates.
And like the best anti-heroes, Elric decides to embrace his destiny and discard all pretense of being someone who does good. THE END.
There you have it, one of the great, genre-defining fantasy novels of the 70s. Michael Moorcock would go on to write more Elric adventures, but perhaps even more important, he’d invent other heroes and world, and tie them all together in a shared-universe concept he’d call the ‘Hero Eternal’. Essentially, Elric in this universe is but one aspect of the Hero Eternal, other universes having their own versions of himself in completely different stories and worlds, bearing their own names and histories. Fascinating that it’s taken this long for the concept of the ‘multiverse’ to become more mainstream.
Thanks for reading ‘UNEARTHED: Elric: The Dreaming City’, the second in the line of original Marvel Graphic Novels! Next up: another one by Jim Starlin, whose work we’ve seen in the first Graphic Novel, ‘The Death of Captain Marvel‘, and in our earlier look at his ‘Warlock‘. This next story’s kind of a weird one, and I’m looking forward to bringing it to you. Stay tuned, True Believers!