by Richard Pini
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Elfquest: Wolfrider / 1-4012-0131-8
I absolutely *love* the "Elfquest Archives" and recommend them to anyone, whether they're already fans of the series or not. When I finished the four archive volumes, I was excited to see that there's still a lot more Elfquest material out there to sample, but I was largely disappointed with this volume and I really don't recommend it.
This volume is a series of disjointed vignettes, covering various stories before the events of the archives. The writing style and artwork varies greatly across this volume, from good to bad to cartoony, and the series is not better for it. The black-and-white artwork is too busy and cluttered to really appreciate, unlike the lavish color pictures in the archives. And the actual stories themselves... leave a lot to be desired.
Much of my biggest problem with this volume lies in the character of Bearclaw, Cutter's father. In the archives, it was stressed that Bearclaw was a good chief, but very hot-tempered and impulsive. In this volume, however, Bearclaw has become an intensely abusive tyrant - refusing to share his knowledge and hunting expertise for the good of the tribe and striking out (literally) at the other wolfriders, including striking his mate Joyleaf. Everyone treats this event as just another day in the life, and they all slavishly follow Bearclaw's "commands" as if he were some kind of monarch, and this just doesn't fit with the characters fleshed out in the original archived comics. Perhaps it's more "wolf-like" for the wolfriders to allow their leader to abuse them as he sees fit, but it's not consistent with the social dynamics that have already been established and the overall feel is that of a bad Retcon.
Indeed, there's a lot of Retconning going on here and I dislike it. The writers have decided that the eight-fingered elves count in base eight now, instead of base ten, so it's "eights of years" this and "eight of chiefs" that, and it feels jarring, like the franchise has been given totally over to the fringe fans who care less about good writing and more about pedantic obsession with detail. The wolf-riders no longer cook their meat, but rather eat it raw - because that's what wolves do, right?! I expect that in the next issue we'll find that the elves don't grow things or make things or use weapons anymore either, and then we can call them the "Wolfkins" instead of the "Wolfriders" or whatever. And recognition has no been retconned into the *only* way to have children, which makes it kind of funny when the High Elf in the archives explained that children who are "born of recognition" are especially sensitive to the spirits, as opposed to the ones who aren't - which are now, thanks to retcon, don't actually exist.
When the new authors aren't rewriting perfectly good old material, they're creating new material... that isn't terrible good at all. One of the shorter stories features a troll who manages to single-handedly capture *every single animal in the forest* and the wolfriders are driven near to death of hunger from being unable to find game. So much for being peerless trackers, huh? Another features a young human boy who teaches himself to play music from the elfin flutes he finds in the forest. It's not a bad story, but it's just not very good, and it's not very...Elfquest-y.
I wouldn't recommend this volume. Hardcore Elfquest fans will be disappointed, I think, and new fans to the series will just be confused, annoyed, or uninterested.
~ Ana Mardoll
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