What am I Reading? (With Robot 6)

I read the first issue of Elric: The Balance Lost this week. When I first heard that BOOM! was going to be launching an Elric series, I was somewhat interested, but not certain I’d pick it up. It wasn’t written by Michael Moorcock himself, and besides I hadn’t enjoyed his most recent Elric novel nearly as much as his earlier works. But then I read the preview they released for Free Comic Book Day, and I was hooked.

The story spans at least four worlds in Moorcock’s multiverse, and four incarnations of the Eternal Champion: Elric, last ruler of a dead empire, who wields the black sword Stormbringer and absorbs the souls of those he kills so that he can live; Hawkmoon, champion of a distant future Earth who defeated the conquering empire of Granbretan; Corum, last of a dead race who fought to protect the humans who inherited his world; and Eric Beck, a game developer living in a world not unlike our own. The first issue establishes all four characters and the worlds they come from, so that new readers unfamiliar with Moorcock’s work will understand the basics, and shows each world threatened by the tipping balance. Elric finds himself in a world overrun by chaos, while Eric Beck’s more familiar world is beginning to shift too far toward order. By the end of the issue, Eric finds himself drawn into the adventure. It’s one of the most effective first issues I’ve read in a while, managing to mix exposition and action and end on a hook that makes me feel like the next issue will jump straight into the story.

The Unwritten continues to hold the spot as my favorite ongoing series. The latest issue is essentially a caper, with Tom, Lizzie and Savoy trying to infiltrate the auction of author Wilson Taylor’s estate. It’s got all the twists and turns in terms of allegiances, who has the upper hand, and who *thinks* they have the upper hand, that you’d expect, and in the end it manages to both answer some questions about Tom Taylor’s origins and call into question some of what we thought we knew, all while setting things up for the next phase of the story. I’ve always been a sucker for stories about stories, which I’m sure is why Sandman resonated so well with me when I finally started reading it, but The Unwritten tackles the concept from an entirely different angle, focusing on the way stories — whether history, fiction, propaganda, or the stories we tell ourselves to justify our actions — shape the world.

Of course, as a DC reader and a Flash fan, it would be virtually impossible to avoid Flashpoint. I’m reading the main series and six of the tie-in miniseries. Of those, the ones I’m enjoying the most are Frankenstein and the Creatures of the UnknownKid Flash Lost, and Citizen Cold. The first issue of Frankenstein is crazy World-War II action featuring the Frankenstein monster and lawyer-friendly versions of Dracula, the Wolfman, and the Creature from the Black Lagoon, and features Frankenstein personally killing Adolf Hitler with a sword. It’s hard to go wrong with that. Citizen Cold feels like a return to the glory days of the Geoff Johns/Scott Kolins run on The Flash, only with everything shifted around to make Captain Cold the protagonist. It’s interesting to see how little has changed in Central/Keystone City when the rest of the world is vastly different. Kid Flash Lost feels more like a continuation of The Flash Vol.3 than Flashpoint does, except better. It’s faster paced, despite the fact that the main character has lost his speed for the duration. It manages to justify some of the odd choices from “The Road to Flashpoint” that just came out of nowhere. Most importantly, Sterling Gates really understands Bart Allen’s personality in a way that I never really saw in Geoff Johns’ Teen Titans or Flash runs (though there were glimpses of him in Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds).

As for Flashpoint itself, it continues to remind me a lot of Geoff Johns’ first Flash story, Wonderland. The first two issues didn’t really grab me, but things are picking up with the third as it moves beyond exposition and into rising action. Maybe it’s just me, but in a five-issue miniseries, shouldn’t you be done with setup in the first issue, not half-way through the third?

Other comics I’ve read recently: Farscape is moving toward the conclusion of its year-long story about the invasion of the Uncharted Territories. It still feels a bit too much like New Jedi Order, with the arrival of an unbeatable enemy and the wholesale demolition of large chunks the universe that had been built up by four years of the TV series, but it’s continuing to hold my interest. And Tiny Titans #41, the All-Flash issue, was a welcome counterpart to the grimness of Flashpoint: Legion of Doom and Grodd of War.

Guest post at Robot 6