The Michael Moorcock Library: The Chronicles of Corum: The Queen of Swords HC (2018, Titan) – Mike Baron

3 out of 5

Suffering a bit from item-fetch questism (aka Your Princess Is In Another Castle!), as well as a deus ex machina weapon that Corum is literally told can be pointed at anyone to destroy them, whoop whoop, the second comic adaptation of Michael Moorcock’s Corum books lacks the sweeping sense of history and momentum that carried volume one, and revels a bit too much in random fantasy dressings.  Things settle down in its latter half, however, when the prince gets his shit together, rallying troops and gear, for an energetic set of battles against agents of Chaos and the titular Queen, Xiombarg.

Prior to that, Corum and Rhalina are chilling in their spoils, until a kooky man named Jharl – speaking intriguingly of different timelines and worlds – convinces Corum to ride out and warn others of impending war.  The trio (plus Corum’s army) does so, leading to the aforementioned questing when each stop along the way suggests that the prince has to make one more stop to accomplish some subsequent task.  It feels a bit consequenceless, but also moves quickly – writer Mike Baron again acefully navigating through and around huge fantasy concepts with well-chosen and edited exposition – and eventually we hop to Xiombarg’s dimension, where artist Mike Mignola gets the chance to draw some interesting beasties.  But still, it all feels a bit kitchen sinky, and it’s not until we’re back and ready to battle that stakes can actually be planted.

Art-wise, this early effort from Mignola has its pluses and minuses.  He’s wonderful at handling large expanses and landscapes, but by the same token, some of the intended busier moments don’t feel as such because of how open he leaves his panels.  Colorist Tom McCraw adds to this lack of immediacy with a soft-palette of (what look like) water colors.  Mike’s issues are thus pleasant to flip through, but don’t necessarily translate the script well; there are even some flubs where it feels like the layouts and dialogue are out of sync – words speaking to something that’s about to happen or happened a panel ago.  And publisher Titan, offering the same handsome hardcover treatment they did with the previous volume, and including a nice intro from Mignolaverse writer Chris Roberson and an interview with Mike, also fall prey to some marketing misleading here, as Mignola is credited on the cover as the sole artist, when in fact he only did two of the four issues, i.e. half the book.  The other half is picked up by Jackson Guice, who frankly was a better fit.  Guice picks up some of Mike’s style in issue 4, leaving out detailing on Corum’s cloak and leaving his linework mainly for the foreground – and he admittedly lacks Mike’s ability to draw scale – but he brings in a sense of busyness that much better sells the action, with Ray Murtagh providing a more traditional and grounded color palette.  Carrie Spiegle has the task of lettering throughout, and unfortunately doesn’t always do the best job of visually connecting tails to their speakers, leaving the reading order of some panels in disarray.

So volume two has its problems.  It is, of course, backed up by its classic source material, and Baron’s strong sense of stay-on-course writing, to keep it an enjoyable reading experience, and certainly intriguing enough to have us looking forward to volume three.

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