ElfQuest: 25th Anniversary Special (September, 2003)
“Fire and Flight”
by Wendy & Richard Pini
Cover Price: $2.95
I suppose I should get it out of the way straight off… Yes, I’m using the technicality that DC Comics once held the publishing rights to this title as justification to be able to discuss a bit of ElfQuest on this here blog. The DC Bullet is on the cover, so I suppose it’s fair game.
ElfQuest will always hold a very special place in my heart, as it was to thank and/or to blame for this quarter-century terminal fixation I have had with comic books. My first time ever walking into a “comic book store” was to find anything I could with ElfQuest in the title. This book served as something of a “gateway drug”, that introduced me to the X-Men… who kept me coming back to the shop (at least) weekly ever since.
It was the late eighties, and I was around 8 years old. I was new to town, and never did have an easy time making friends. A friend I did manage to make rather quickly, however, was named Brett. We would hang out at each others houses, play video games, ride bikes… ya know, all that stuff. One thing we also found is that we shared a love of writing. We wrote some very light fantasy “novels”, which were basically bits and pieces of the Legend of Zelda, Dragon Warrior, and Final Fantasy with us and our friends acting as the heroes. Our stories were heavily illustrated, and likely featured no more than a few hundred words, all told.
Brett was also heavily into tabletop/pen-and-paper role-playing games. Try as I might, I was never able to get into them. I never seemed to be able to sit still long enough to get truly involved. It did look fun, however. I did help his campaigns out by illustrating the characters he had created on his photocopied character sheets. One day, he showed me a character sheet he’d illustrated himself, and I was taken aback by how awesome the character looked. He told me he traced the outline of the character from a book he’d grabbed at the public library. This was the first time I would ever see ElfQuest, as he traced his character out of the ElfQuest Gatherum (volume two).
|from The ElfQuest Gatherum, Volume Two
Our next several dozen characters would be variations of the same 8-10 body types featured in the book… that poor thing was absolutely falling apart by the time we were done with it. One day, when we must have been incredibly bored, we decided to actually read the rest of the Gatherum. So blown away by the art and what must have been an epic story, we were on our way to being completely obsessed with the property.
The local public library at the time did not feature a very large comics/graphic novel section. I have not been in a library for well over a decade, so I cannot with any authority say that it’s gotten much better… though, I have a feeling it has. Back then, you would be lucky to find at most a half-shelf of comics… this includes Peanuts and Garfield collections, by the way. Our library had a copy of the Complete ElfQuest volume 2 “The Forbidden Grove”, the aforementioned Gatherum, and the Complete ElfQuest volume 4 “Quest’s End”. Well, we each grabbed one, and we were off.
In the back of the “Complete” books, it showed the various covers of the issues contained within… including the Marvel/Epic versions. We now knew these were originally comic books… These were older, so we were unlikely to come across them at the 7-11 or pharmacy… so, we had to find a place that specialized in comic books.
We managed to find one such store in the next town over. With our little fists packed full of unspent lunch money and a gleam in our eye, we headed out. This comic store was the size of a… larger utility closet. It was cramped, and had the tiniest back-issue area. When asked, he told us he doubted he had any ElfQuest books, but pointed us in the direction where they would be. Much to our (and his) surprise, he did have a few on hand. Unfortunately, his whole selection were from the two books we’d just gotten from the library. They were $2.00 each, and we each picked one. I still remember, the issue I grabbed was ElfQuest #10 from the Marvel/Epic run, the very same copy I still have today.
|My ElfQuest #1’s
WaRP Graphics / Marvel-Epic / DC Comics
We would revisit that shop a few times a week from that point on, even getting other friends of ours into the series. Eventually, Brett got the line of “Complete” trades for Christmas, and gave me his single-issues. I kept collecting the singles, and would grab a trade on special occasions/holidays. I still have ElfQuest on my pull-list to this very day, in the form of “The Final Quest” currently being published by Dark Horse Comics. It’s amazing to consider that though I have strayed a time or two from this series, it is still there for me to come back to almost thirty years later.
I’m glad I had this excuse to discuss a seminal event in my young life that led me down the primrose path of comic book fandom. If you are still reading, I thank you. Now, on to the “review”:
After a brief retelling of how the elves came to inhabit the World of Two Moons, Wolfrider Chief, Cutter and his companion Skywise look on as one of their tribesmen, Redlance the tree-shaper is about to be sacrificed to the God Gotara by a group of humans.
Left-Father Tree Press (1988) Center-Marvel/Epic (1985) Right-DC Comics (2003)
The Wolfriders spring into action before the sacrifice can be made. Killing the human (Tabak) who is about to stab Redlance, they are able to stop the proceedings. They flee back to their Holt, and advise Redlance’s lifemate, Nightfall that they made it in time.
Meanwhile, the human tribe mourns their fallen Tabak, and plan their revenge. They will burn the elves out of the forest.
While Cutter and Skywise stargaze and reflect on the days events, Cutter’s wolf Nightrunner approaches with information… Humans are coming, and with them they bring fire. Cutter “sends” this information among the Wolfriders, and they prepare to defend their home.
Cutter and the human chief have a contentious exchange. Cutter warns that if the woods burn, both tribes will die. Maddened by grief and fueled by revenge, the human chief does not care. He proceeds to begin burning the woods, the Wolfrider’s Holt with it.
The elves collect themselves, and at Cutter’s direction head toward the Caverns of the Trolls. Once there, we meet the cantankerous Picknose, who initially refuses to aid the elves. With a little persuasion in the form of a dozen wolves simultaneously growling, he gives in… he will take them to speak with troll King Greymung.
The Wolfriders are there to call in a favor from the trolls for all the times the elves have shared meat and conducted trade with them. Ultimately Greymung agrees to help, telling the Wolfriders that the over end of the tunnel opens to “green and peaceful” woods. This is also the scene wherein Skywise procures his trademark Lodestone shard, which until now was a part of a larger stone Greymung had been using as a footrest.
The trolls guide Cutter and the Wolfriders to the other end of the tunnel, only to find that the tunnel opens to a vast desert wasteland. They have been tricked. Picknose causes a rockslide, blocking the elves from returning. Cutter and his tribe look toward the desert, and wonder what lies ahead.
Okay, what is there to say? It’s ElfQuest #1. It’s amazing.
This may be the single issue of a comic book series that I have re-read more than any other. Initially because it was the only series I collected, admittedly, however it is one that I do not tire of. This issue is so masterfully crafted, we not only meet these character… we already begin to feel for them as well. So much occurs in the span of this issue. We are introduced to a cast of characters and a status quo only to have the rug pulled out from under us. We are left just as disoriented and fearful of what’s to come as the Wolfriders themselves.
Not to gush (too much), but the writing is fantastic. From the elves we meet, they each have a distinct voice. Cutter in particular, has several “inflections” he uses. We observe him talking to humans, his tribe, his best-friend, and the trolls. He speaks differently to each, as though he allows certain aspects of his personality arise based upon who he is with… that is a very, apologies here… human, character trait, and it is put to use beautifully here.
The art? Now, really… what can I say about Wendy Pini’s art? Other than, even over a quarter-century later she is still in my Top Five artists of all time? This is a vast cast of characters. They all have their own distinct facial features and even body language, this book is always an absolute treat to behold.
|WaRP Graphics (1978)
|Epic/Marvel Comics (1985)
|Father Tree Press (1988)
|DC Comics (2003)
This new DC Comics edition brings with it new coloring and new lettering. The quality absolutely shows. The new coloring is stunning, and the lettering is much cleaner. I would assume this recoloring would be featured in the (long out of print, and quite pricey) DC Archives Editions.
This book wraps up with some text pieces including an interview with the Pini’s about bringing their property to DC Comics for distribution. They also discuss how DC (and Marvel) initially turned down publishing ElfQuest once upon a time.
This is most definitely recommended (shocking, I know). The entire ElfQuest library (minus the current “Final Quest”) is available digitally… for free at elfquest.com. If digital ain’t your thing (it ain’t my thing) there are a number of print options available, all at very fair/reasonable prices.
Interesting Ads (all ElfQuest Edition):
|Manga-sized Black & White chronological retelling of ElfQuest
|The Pricey beasts…
UPDATE 5/7/23 – “Remastered” for WordPress!