Review: Elfquest Archives Vol. 1

ElfQuest 1: Archives (DC)Elfquest Archives Vol. 1
by Wendy Pini

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Elfquest Archives: Vol. 1 / 1-4012-0128-8

"Colorful" barely begins to describe this archive volume. The drawings are incredibly detailed, beautifully colored, and lovingly crafted - several of the full page drawings are so artistic that I'm tempted to just frame them and hang them on my walls. The drawings are so realistic and lovely, that it's easy to become instantly immersed in the storyline, and it's fascinating how compelling the ElfQuest tale is.

Volume 1 portrays the movement of the Wolfrider elves from their ancient forest home after the evil humans destroy their home and everything they've ever known and loved. The young and inexperienced chief, Cutter, leads his people to the nearby home of the trolls, hoping to half-bargain, half-threaten passage through the mountain to the other side of the world, a world where perhaps the humans no longer exist and can no longer slaughter them. What they find on the other side, however, is a world so alien and inhospitable that survival seems impossible - until they chance until another tribe of elves, as alien and foreign to the Wolfriders as the desert that now threatens to kill them. From there, the Wolfriders and the Sun People must learn to live together in harmony; with Cutter's romance with the exotic Leetah a metaphor for the blossoming relationship between the two tribes.

It's hard to know how to classify ElfQuest. There's a lot of action here, in the early battles with the humans, the trolls, and the beasts of the forest, and yet ElfQuest is not primarily an action-adventure tale, as witnessed by the long periods of dialogue, emotional adjustment, and day-to-day life details of the elves and their pets. There's a great deal of 'adult' material, as Cutter and Leetah struggle with the imperatives of their hearts and bodies, but this isn't gratuitous titillation - the emotional turmoil that the pair explore is relevant and significant to all of us. Reasonable people will disagree as to what age minimum this comic is suitable for, and yet the sensitive and intelligent treatment of adulthood themes such as love, lust, friendship, honor, moderation, and self-control are so well-handled here that I'd prefer to hand this to a child over, say, the latest 'harmless' shoot-em-up graphic novel that fails to give more than mere lip-service to the idea that violence for its own sake might be bad. ElfQuest explores these and other concepts in detail, and in a manner that is always thought-provoking yet never bombastic or dictatorial.

Because I'm a new fan, I can't speak to how this archive compares to the original old issues. Snippets of the old issues are included in the beginning and ending of each archive; sometimes in black-and-white panels, others in full color portraits and covers. I believe, however, that the spirit of the original was perfectly preserved, and I find ElfQuest to be just as compelling today as it must have been when it was first published.

~ Ana Mardoll

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