Elfquest Archives Volume 4
by Wendy Pini
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Elfquest Archives: Vol. 4 / 978-1-4012-0773-1
The quest comes to a blazing and surprising end, as Cutter and the Go-Backs fight their way through the mountain in search of the High One's home. As I noted in my review for the first volume, these archives are massively colorful and detailed - with artistic drawings that draw the reader in and a sensitive and intelligent handling of all subject matter. I noted that another reviewer felt that the volume was overly bright and garish, but I didn't feel this was the case at all, in my personal opinion. I suppose there is a fair bit of torchlight scattered throughout the volume, but they *are* primarily underground, after all.
Volume 4 takes off immediately after Volume 3, as Cutter and his people are forced into a confrontation with the mountain trolls, and the Go-Backs - a fierce tribe fighting a constant war with the trolls - teach them how to survive in the freezing mountains. Once again, the Wolfriders must learn the ways of a new tribe and must learn how to get along with them, and also once again, this tension is symbolized in romance - this time between Leetah and an old friend. Indeed, this symbolism between the two tribes is most apt, for the two superficially share much in common (both the Wolfriders and the Go-Backs are well versed in war and fighting), yet there is a fundamental difference in philosophy that prevents a complete joining of these two otherwise similar souls.
Fascinatingly, the point is made later in the volume that, though the trolls and the elves are two separate races, their past and future is largely tied together, as they arrived here with the High Ones, struggle to survive against the humans, and ultimately must eke out a living together, side by side. This is particularly interesting as this is the first time the recurring theme that all elves are in the same boat (as it were) has been extended to the other fantastical races within the series.
I've noted before that it's hard to know how to classify ElfQuest within a genre. Volume 4 is perhaps the most action oriented of the series - the elf-troll war takes up most of the volume, particularly as the Wolfriders learn new fighting techniques and possess new battle gear. The "adult" material is ramped up noticeably, too, with a great deal of fighting, dying, and a scene that can only be described as a pre-battle orgy. As always, though, there is a heavy emphasis on philosophy and emotion, as childhood lovers heal their remaining emotional scars, as warriors fight and die to protect their loved ones, and as the Wolfriders come to finally understand that war and killing are bad things to be avoided whenever possible, and not the glorious rush that they once thought it to be.
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.
~ Ana Mardoll
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