It’s been a little while since I’ve been so pumped about writing a review that I didn’t wait at all to get around to doing it. Yes sir, finished this group of comics last night late, and Bam! It’s already Review time!
So what could be that great that it caused me to pouce all over this like Battle Cat on a mutton chop? The answer is this 4 issue comic book adaptation of the first chapter Michael Moorcock’s Runestaff saga done by First Publishing back in the mid 80s.
Expertly written by Gerry Conway with art by Rafael Kayanan, this series is a fantastic slice of classic swords/sorcery with sci-fi undertones mixed in perfectly. Similar to some of the best Roy Thomas Conan, its manages to deliver high concept fantasy style action/adventure in a way that’s not over the top and stylistically engaging. It’s also very true to the original source material allowing much of that greatness to shine through despite delivering it in a different medium.
The Runestaff saga is actually a four book mega story chronicling the adventures of Dorian Hawkmoon, one of the aspects of Michael Moorcock’s “Eternal champion” theme which runs through a lot of his writings. Like the characters of Elric and Corum, Hawkmoon is the one who is chosen by fate to fight for the Cosmic Balance between Law and Chaos and thus fulfilling this important role despite the differences between him and those other eternal champions.
In fact, it’s often been said that Hawkmoon is one of the less “problematic” characters Moorcock ever created a series around. Unlike the anti-hero Elric of Melniboné, or the alienated and tragic Corum, or the sometimes savage Erekosë, Hawkmoon is described as being very much close to being an all-around “good guy” and a hero in the classic sense of the word. It could be why I enjoyed this book over some of the other previous comic book adaptations of Moorcock’s writings I’ve read previously.
I admit that I did start the Elric cycle which was adapted by Roy Thomas for Pacific Comics around the same time as this Hawkmoon series was being produced, and I found it much harder to digest. As a result, I didn’t get much further than issue 4 of the original 6 part story before I got distracted and started reading something else. This was I believe mainly due to the fact that it was hard for me to care about any of the characters in that book since they were all terrible people really.
Hawkmoon on the other hand was an extremely easy character to root for and more to the point, was the main character in the classic evil empire vs. rag tag bunch of rebels story that I’m a fan of.
In fact, there’s not really a lot of deviation from that classic motif as we are introduced to some far future alternative Earth, in which science and super sorcery go hand in hand like something out of Thundarr the Barbarian. In this world, the bad guys are part of the empire of Granbretan (Great Britian) who has been systemically conquering all of what we know as Europe, including Dorian Hawkmoon’s kingdom of Kohl.
Captured as a slave, Hawkmoon then has this deadly black jewel implanted in his forehead and is told to serve the empire or they’ll explode it killing him instantly. He has no choice but to then go on a mission to force the neutral country of Kamarg to join with the evil empire by kidnapping the defender and lord of Kamarg’s daughter.
Luckily though Kamarg’s lord, Count Brass, ain’t no pushover and sees through this plot early upon Hawkmoon’s arrival, mainly because Hawkmoon is a decent guy to start with. Plus Brass’s daughter is a banging hot chick so Hawkmoon quickly wants to make the beast with two backs with her instead of kidnapping her for some other fool.
Long story short, Count Brass helps Hawkmoon delay the effects of the black jewel and our hero is somewhat indebted to him and the people of Kamarg. So he helps organize the defense of the country against the dark empire.
The final issue of the 4 parter deals with Hawkmoon traveling far to east to break the power of the black jewel forever and also introduces the concept of the rune staff which is actually the overarching magical weapon that this entire series is about.
That’s pretty much it for this first story in terms of plot, and I’m sure you’re all wondering what was so special about all that made Andy sit up and take so much notice. I really don’t have a strong answer for that other than for me, this series was like a summer popcorn muncher. Sure there’s not a lot of heavy substance or groundbreaking ideas, but the visuals, the pacing, the action, all were spot on and that made for a classic page turner.
Sure issue 1 is a bit slow as we aren’t introduced to Hawkmoon until half way through, but by the time he shows up, the story picks up steam in a hurry. And I found myself wrapped up in, waiting anxiously to see what happens next. Especially, by issue 3 and 4, which are by far the best parts of this series.
Overall, I can’t recommend picking up this series enough. Even if you’ve never read the novels or anything Michael Moorcock has written, this comic series is the perfect introduction to all that. It’s easily digestible to readers of any age and fun as all get out. Plus with 3 more series of Hawkmoon after this, you are sure to have a character you can really feel invested in.
Andy’s Read Pile Rating: A