Graphic Novelty²


Dark Horse Books

Tales From The Crypt- Vol. 1

Dark Horse Books has brought back the cult classic Tales From The Crypt comics from EC Comics in all its cheesy horror glory!

The Entertaining Comics (EC) group was a comics line founded by Maxwell Gaines in 1945 and later run by his son William Gaines, that published popular horror, science fiction, and war-related comics. Sadly the comic line was torpedoed by the Comics Code Authority, and the publishers stopped printing the horror comics in 1956, instead devoting their time to the fledgling Mad magazine known for its humor and satire. But EC left behind many fond memories and a strong legacy in the comics world, thus this is the first volume in a series that reprints some of the best stories from that era!

The Crypt Keeper, which many readers might recognize from the tv series on HBO in the 90s (yet another legacy from EC), opens many of the tales giving a brief narration for the upcoming theme of the story. Keeping in mind these stories were published from the 40s thru the 50s the stories are quite tame with little gore and often incorporated a lesson in them. While there were supernatural beings such as werewolves, Neanderthals, vampires and zombies- the scoundrels typically met their doom, while the pure prevailed. There were also some cringe-worthy storylines that demeaned women with sexist attitudes, and there was an especially racist story about Black island natives. Well regarded author and illustrator Al Feldstein, who later edited Mad magazine, was credited with many of the stories found in this volume.

Some standout stories were:

Death Must Come- A doctor who has cheated death with a youth serum finally meets his end.

The Man Who Was Death- An executioner becomes too diligent with his work.

Curse of the Full Moon- The werewolf is not who you think it is!

Mute Witness to Murder- After witnessing a murder, a woman goes mute in shock, and the killer comes after her.

Ghost Ship- A newly married couple are stranded and climb aboard a ghost ship.

The Hungry Grave- A cheating couple who scheme to kill the woman’s husband has the tables turned on them.

Rx…Death- Be careful in taking the correct medicine, or else deal with the dire consequences.

Terror Ride- Don’t go on sketchy looking carnival rides!

The Vault of Horror- A curse dooms a family and should have been taken more seriously.

The illustrations are dated to modern readers, but were from the Golden Age of Comics, and have such a retro look to us today because of the clothes and hairstyles of that time period. Cover pages were especially well done- for they captured your attention and drew you into the story. Artists such as Johnny Craig (who also wrote some of the stories), Wally Wood, Graham Ingels, Harvey Kurtzman, George Roussos, Jack Kamen and Marie Severin gave their talents to EC and it’s a delight to see some of their gone-but-not-forgotten work. This was an enjoyable Halloween read, and while not as scary as I had imagined it might be, it was very worthwhile.


ElfQuest: The Final Quest Volumes 1-2

As I said when I reviewed the first volume of ElfQuest– I fell in love with this series when I was in high school and my boyfriend who was collecting them introduced me to the World of Two Moons. Sometimes our dates would consist of us sitting side by side reading for hours and debating the finer points of elf lore. That my high school boyfriend eventually became my husband makes this series dear to my heart.

In 1978 the first volume, Fire and Flight, introduces us to the Wolfriders, an elfin band that rides wolves and live in the woods, or as they call it, The Holt. I began reading the series in the early 1990s when six volumes had already been released and throughout college and into my mid-20s I eagerly picked up every new volume. The Pini’s had expanded the elven world and soon the woodland elves met desert, water and mountain elves plus they found some original high-born elves that came from another planet and had crashed there eons ago. During this time, my favorite story, Little Patch came out, which I still like to re-read on a regular basis.  But in the mid-90s the authors began to let other authors and illustrators tell some stories, and within a few years, my husband and I eventually lost interest as the art and storytelling felt sub-standard to us. The stories branched off with characters I didn’t care about, and the art suffered from different artists, as Wendy Pini’s exquisite pencils defined ElfQuest for me.

Years later my husband and I were in Chicago to see the Blue Man Group and had a bit of time to kill between dinner and the show so naturally, we found the closest Graham Crackers Comic Book store (love that chain!) and discovered that ElfQuest was still going strong and was back to the Pini’s work. We began reading the series again and in 2015 it was announced that the last arc, The Final Quest, would be four volumes concluding in 2018 which would be the 40 year anniversary of the series. I purchased all four as they came out and did quick read-throughs but failed to review them until now. While it might have taken a quarantine for me to write this post, it has been a lovely blast from my past to re-read these four volumes and share my thoughts.

Volume One

The Wolfrider saga is complex with a multi-generational elf tribe and long-running storylines, so coming back into this story (even after some catch up) proved to be challenging. The Wolfriders have broken into two tribes, led by chief Cutter who has led this band of elves from the beginning of the series, and the other is led by Ember his adult daughter, so that way if one tribe is destroyed by humans the Wolfriders will live on. Cutter is known as Kinseeker, as he has united the many elven tribes and remembers the past as other elves do not, as their memories fade after thousands of years.

A human tyrant Angrif Djun is intent on destroying all elves and unites other tribes in a war against Ember’s tribe. Kidnapped for a time, Ember’s plight is worsened as she is fighting off the effects of Recognition from her lover Tier, a time when two elves unite to create a child. Different elves, absent for a while, are being drawn back home as the mystical Palace of the High Ones sends off an aura of magic that strengthens their powers. Fates of some elves are revealed, as this first of the planned four begins to try to tidy up the many many threads of narratives for this series.

Volume Two

Sunstream, twin to Ember, who has strong physic powers begins to send out a call to all elves, not just Wolfriders, to reunite. Together these tribes need to decide if they wish to join the Palace and live as immortals, or if they wish to remain on the world of Two Moons and heed “The Way”. But this decision causes dissent within the tribes, and within families, as some wish to stay while others wish to go. Angrif Djun continues to build an armada to destroy the elves, but can they outlast him as his human lifespan is but an instant to them? They also balance uniting with peaceful humans and have in fact adopted a few into their tribe (like Little Patch years ago) as they realize not all humans are to be feared. But the ending of this volume ended on a very strange note as it is revealed that Cutter and a High One Timmain are spirit-bound in a single soul. What????

It has been a pleasure to see Wendy’s art again fully colored. When the series began it was done in black and white, but when ElfQuest for a time was under Marvel ownership, the issues were collected into colored volumes and reached a greater audience. Her panels are a delight to look at and often include a lot of background with other elves, so you can pick up on other details in the tribe’s lives even if only one is being featured. With a huge cast of characters that is helpful, so you feel you are getting a look into more of the interconnected tribes.  Colorist Sonny Strait did a lovely job with rich colors and letterer Nate Piekos did an admirable job with all the dialogue.

While these final four books are definitely for already established fans of ElfQuest, this series will hopefully make others want to go back and dive into ElfQuest’s deep history.


Check out the concluding two volumes in Final Quest Volumes 3-4

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