RED SPIKE #3 of 5 (Image Comics, release date 7/06/11) Story: Jeff Cahn. Art: Mark Texiera, Salvador Navarro & Ifansyah Noor. Cover: Mark Texiera.
The close-up battle on the cover of Issue #3 might give the impression it will be an all-action issue featuring a knock-down, drag-out fight between two equally matched and fierce warriors. Actually, there’s a lot more of substance and back story in this issue that neatly fills in some of the details behind Project Red Spike but still leaves a lot left to be uncovered. However, that evocative cover really pulls you in with a brilliant depiction of both fighters connecting with face punches, the blood flying as they confront each other with angry eyes and open-mouthed outrage. You would expect no less when two macho mens’ berserker rage is surgically adrenaline-augmented and their combat training kicks in.
Red Spike operative Greg Dane has fled the home base after some corrective surgery fails to control his ever-growing psychotic impulses. It’s up to brother operative Matt Cutler to locate him in the metro D.C. area and return him to base, unharmed if at all possible.
There are several flashback scenes from ten, five, and two years back that shed more light on some of the major players in this program, especially Colonel Moyer who has been there from Day One. (After last issue, I wondered which of the two warriors witnessed a parental murder-suicide at an early age, and now I have a better idea of who). Matt wonders what was the trigger that caused Greg to break and worries that the Red Spike surgery may eventually cause his own system to revolt in similar fashion. Col. Moyer reassures him that Greg’s problems don’t stem from the Red Spike program, which leads Matt to wonder why someone with Greg’s background would be recruited for the program in the first place. Moyer’s answer that he knew his late father and felt personally responsible for his future welfare is not entirely convincing.
When Matt and Greg do finally meet up, it’s for a revealing conversation before it progresses to fight and pursuit. Greg shares something he has kept to himself regarding a third Red Spike operative no longer with the program and this further increases Matt’s uncertainty. The final fight scenes, especially at the Lincoln Memorial where a famous landmark gets damaged, are very well done as is the art throughout this issue. I really can’t detect what scenes were drawn by which of the three artists, and that makes for a seamless flow that keeps things moving - - despite the amount of dialogue and data that gets exchanged in the panels. If that wasn’t enough Greg’s love interest Margaret is starting to rebel at Project Red Spike, and Senator Coughlin gets enough new information to get himself appointed to investigate the project. I expect Issues 4 and 5 to dramatically wrap up the first (I hope there are more) Red Spike story line / mission.
MICHAEL MOORCOCK’S ELRIC: THE BALANCE LOST #1 (Boom Studios, release date 7/06/11). Writer: Chris Roberson. Artist: Francesco Biagini.
During my more youthful days, I spent many hours reading with relish the fantasy exploits of various barbarian heroes, beginning with Conan and moving on to others. Not long after, I discovered the various works of Michael Moorcock and his creation = Elric of Melnibone.
I always considered Elric the “thinking man’s Conan”, for along with the fantasy elements and savage battles there was Elric’s self-doubt, inner turmoil and psychological conflicts to enhance the storylines. It was never about just one man surviving in a savage land - - Elric was about one of several Eternal Warriors tasked with defending the world and maintaining the balance between Law and Chaos. I reviewed the Free Comic Book Day preview of ELRIC: THE BALANCE LOST back on May 1st for BC Refugees and had this to say about it then:
Writer Chris Roberson has already demonstrated his ability to adapt and create new works from classic genre literature (DO ANDROIDS DREAM OF ELECTRIC SHEEP?: DUST TO DUST mini-series/prequel) and I definitely expect the same high quality and attention to detail with his handling of Elric, the philosophical self-doubting reluctant adventurer from creator Michael Moorcock. The highly literate Moorcock raised the bar for sword and sorcery epics with these stories back in the 1970’s.
With just 12 pages to work with in the FCBD edition, Roberson capably lays the foundation and touches on the main points of this epic, managing to entertain us at the same time while whetting our appetite for more by hinting at a bigger picture/universe. Roberson plans to incorporate elements of Moorcock’s greater creation, the Multiverse. Here there are similar heroes to Elric (Eternal Champions) all taking different stances /approaches to the infinite clash between Law and Chaos, and the balance of the universe. I can’t wait to see how he handles Corum and Hawkmoon, as well as the dream-plagued Eric Beck of more modern times.
A quick summary of the main points for the uninitiated: Elric is the albino prince/emperor of Melnibone, a fantasy world amongst the Multiverse, who is physically linked and partially nourished/strengthened by the use of his black blade Stormbringer, which steals the souls of all he slays.
I’ve just finished reading ELRIC: THE BALANCE LOST #1 and I’m even more excited about the prospects and future for this new series. Roberson has taken the base formula of the legend of Elric and uses it as his launching pad to explore the Multiverse of Michael Moorcock. In this first issue, he flashes back and forth between Elric, Corum Of The Scarlet Robe, and Dorian Hawkmoon. They’ve always been linked indirectly and now events occur that will require all of their energies combined to prevent disaster for all the Multiverse.
Roberson’s linking device exists in the form of a brand new character created by Roberson: Eric Beck. The introduction of Beck into the mix adds a more current-day base for events and further spices the cauldron of mixed soup that Roberson has brought to the dining table.
Eric Beck is a game designer troubled by very strange and vivid dreams that seem real. He dreams of Elric, Corum, and Hawkmoon. Eric himself is internally in turmoil, reluctant to admit to the existence of a twin brother who is grabbing headlines as a political candidate from the militant Law Party that is working to defeat the Progressive Party in a coming election. Beck himself seems more attuned to the Progressive Party, and this should lead to a Law/Chaos conflict in his world as well.
The art by Biagini is consistently awesome, and slightly varies in style depending on whether he is depicting events in Elric’s world or elsewhere. It’s a small but productive touch that further enhances the story-telling. Get your dose of modern-day thinking man’s sword and sorcery adventure with ELRIC: THE BALANCE LOST. Highly recommended.
OTHER TITLES RELEASING ON JULY 6TH WORTHY OF INVESTIGATION: Fear Itself #4 (Marvel), Flashpoint #3 + Superboy #9 (both DC), and Stan Lee’s Starborn: Volume 1 (Boom Studios, and also written by Chris Roberson).