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Nate Piekos

ElfQuest: The Final Quest Volumes 3-4

Forty years of ElfQuest under Cutter’s leadership comes to a close in these last two volumes. These four volumes fold decades worth of storyline and family connections into a mostly satisfying conclusion to this truly epic fantasy series.  Warning- spoilers ahead.

Volume Three

As with every penultimate story, so many threads are being drawn to a close and you wonder how it will ever be wrapped up adequately. The Wave Dancers (the ocean elves) and Rayek (Cutter’s antagonist) play a large part in this volume as we move towards the coming battle with the humans. We also, unfortunately, have had brand new characters introduced very late in the game, which muddies the waters since there is already an established huge cast already. The elves recently discovered a new band of elves who have been hiding in plain sight, The Rootless Ones, a group of elves who a millennium ago shapeshifted into forms resembling plant life and became scavengers who think as a collective. Plus, a strange non-speaking elf Dre-ahn, who for some reason is larger than usual and only sings, is found. Cutter recovers from his discovery that he and High One Timmain are spirit-bound in a single soul. Cutter, who now knows more than he ever thought because of his connection to Timmain, says a poignant quote on the last page as he wonders “If I can know the larger truth and still live the smaller”.

Volume Four

It all comes to a close here in volume four, as all the tribes have been converging on the Palace as it prepares to leave Two Moons and journey back through space to their homeland. While many elves have already made their choice whether to stay or go, a few key decisions remain. Moonshade and Strong Bow’s struggle was heartbreaking, as Moonshade wished to leave while her traditional lifemate wanted to remain. How it concluded brought me to tears.

The human vs elf battle concluded with some treachery by the human leaders which put the elf’s continued existence in peril as their Holt burned. There were some significant losses of life, yet you are lulled into complacency when the battle is over when the unexpected occurs to Cutter. The first time I read it- I was so very shocked. This is the way we lose Cutter? To me, his hero’s journey ended ignobly. With time, and a re-read I see his death in another light. Was there ever going to be a “right” way to die? Did he need to die in battle to make his life worthy? Now I see that it’s alright that he died a quiet death, surrounded by those who loved him.

Is ElfQuest truly over? No, of course not. A new series based off Skywise, Cutter’s best friend and father to Jink (another offshoot to ElfQuest) has begun. As stated by the publisher, “When ElfQuest: The Final Quest concluded, it ended the hero’s journey of Cutter Kinseeker, chief of the Wolfriders. But that was only the start of a new adventure for Cutter’s ”brother in all but blood,” Skywise. Stargazer’s Hunt has story by ElfQuest co-creators Wendy and Richard Pini, with script by Wendy Pini. Veteran Elfquest alumnus Sonny Strait returns at full force as the artist and colorist for the new series. All-new material for an established character.” I do not plan on continuing with StarGazer’s Hunt as I never was a fan of Skywise who seemed like a selfish and hedonistic jerk. I looked briefly at the first issue and Straight is an excellent artist, but to me (and many others, I’m sure) the series ended with Cutter’s death.

I’m so very glad that Wendy and Richard Pini were given the time to craft a powerful concluding arc to the Wolfriders and other elves of Two Moons. Was I happy with every choice the Pini’s made? Of course not, but are fans ever fully happy when a favorite book, TV series or movie ends? Cutter, Leetah, Nightfall, Tyleet, Scouter, Dewshine, Moonshade, Strongbow, Clearbrook, Treestump, Redlance, Ember, Venka, Rayek, Khavi and so many others became real to me as I followed their adventures for over 25 years. While I’m sorry to have the series end, I have so many of the graphic novels at home that I can immerse myself in the series again and again. Farewell to the World of Two Moons!

-Nancy

And just to be picky- I will comment on some stray thoughts that I had during my read of these last four volumes:

Windkin (Dewshine’s son) was a petulant ass. He seemed to forget his mother and his adopted father Scouter, but then moons for Ahdri, a rock shaper from the Sun Tribe, but as soon as he is reunited with her, he drops her. So then Ahdri ends up with the half-elf/troll Two Edge?

So Khavi wanted a child to remember her lovemate Tyldak of the Gliders, so she asks his son to impregnate her when Tyldak dies (gross) but then when Tier is born she abandons him since he is a son instead of a daughter??? And…why was Khavi such a big deal to the Go-Backs? She was always leaving their tribe and jaunting off for hundreds of years. There was mention of her having other children beside Venka and Tier, why didn’t they become tribe leaders?

Recognizing is a big deal to the elves, as it produces strong children, so why do some couples Recognize several times while some elves like Yun, Ahdri and Shenshen never do? It’s like they were found unworthy and just get to sex it up with love mates but never a lifemate.

It’s cool that Dart and Mender began a relationship, but their romance came out of nowhere. Perhaps unfairly, I felt the Pini’s wanted some representation (and it was established that Dart had been in a lovemate relationship with another male elf years ago), so they quickly choose Mender to pair up with Dart.

So Ember and Tier delay Recognition, when no other elf couples have ever been able to in the past? In the conclusion, it shows a time jump and still no child. Why? Plus, I’d like to add that Tier is an emo mess.

Leetah’s power seemed too strong. No healer could ever do what she could. She could force Recognition between Nightfall and Redlance and then delay it for her daughter Ember? And then she could transform her sister Shenshen into looking like a human (which was problematic) felt like too much.

I love Tyleet! I just had to share that.

To read more about ElfQuest check out: The Final Quest Volumes 1 & 2, the original story that began the entire series and a sweet story about Tyleet and her son Little Patch.

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.

-Nancy

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

Sword Daughter

Sword Daughter is yet another Viking era tale told by Brian Wood of Northlanders fame, this time told by a young girl living in the Scandinavian region who survives a massacre on her village when she is a toddler.

The story picks up ten years later in 991 AD, and we discover that Elsbeth has improbably taken care of her father, who was catatonic with grief, and was the only other survivor besides her. First off- what? Although there is mention of Elsbeth trading with nearby seaside villagers, how did a toddler survive the harsh winters and stay clothed and fed during that decade before her father awakens from his fugue state? It defies logic. Getting past this was impossible, and colored my feelings towards the rest of the story.

Once Dag awakens he vows revenge against the Forty Swords, the group who attacked his village and killed most of his family. This group is made up of a bunch of young radicals who have no fixed ideology, they slaughter simply for the pleasure of it. And off Dag and Elsbeth go in the name of vengeance. And that’s the rest of the story – this father and daughter journeying together to find the Forty Swords and challenge them. Dag tries to connect with his mostly non-verbal daughter due to guilt, with a bit of a Lone Wolf and Cub vibe, but I wasn’t feeling it. Stuff happens and then there is a flash forward with a mystery of what happened in the years between Dag awakening and Elsbeth becoming a young woman that leaves some story line threads for the future.

The art by Mack Chater is sketchy with an earth toned color palette, and it is very reminiscent of his earlier Briggs Land collaboration with Wood.  The only additional color is red, when there is blood spilled, plus the evocative red drenched panels during the attack on the village. There are some interesting choices in his panel placement, with a good flow to the narrative; however, some of the art lacks definition with the landscapes simply drawn.

Considering how much I typically love Wood’s work, this story is a real disappointment. While his Viking saga Northlanders is a real treat and his other Viking story Black Road said something fresh about faith and conversion, this story was lacking. What I really want Wood to do is to revisit Briggs Land with Chater and to also continue Rebels, his American Revolution series. So while this particular story didn’t work for me, I still look forward to future work by Wood and Chater.

-Nancy

I Hate Fairyland: Fluff My Life (Volume 2)

Gert is back! And she is still the foul-mouthed violent sociopath that you remember fondly from volume one- Madly Ever After.

At the conclusion of the previous book, Gert has been crowned the Queen of Fairyland, and as you can expect her tenure as queen does not go well. She is unsuited for queenly duties, and as such her kingdom falls into chaos, albeit in a funny candy coated gory way. But author Skottie Young never intends for Gert to remain static, so she manages to get terminated from her job so she can move onto her next adventure.

As always Gert wants to get the fluff out of Fairyland, so she embarks on a quest with her trusty sidekick Larry the Fly. Never to think of anyone but herself, Gert leaves a wake of destruction across the kingdom as she follows different clues that could perhaps send her home. There is a very brief poignant moment, as Gert and Larry speculate what awaits her back home if she should actually leave. But the moment passes, and Gert is back to her destructive ways.  A showdown with a Manga-inspired purty princess leads her to abandon a vulnerable new character,  who will come back for revenge later.

Each book, or even issue, contains stories that are stand alone in nature. This series is geared to be a lighthearted romp, with dark humor and satire interwoven into it. The illustrations continue to be a treat, with a lot of pop culture references drawn in for laughs. Young recently drew a hilarious spoof of the series, I Hate Image for Free Comic Book Day and had Gert encountering other Image Comics series characters.  Young and his creative team continue to have fun with the series, although I must admit, too much of a good thing can start to get old. I will continue to look through future volumes, but am leery of falling into a candy-induced coma if I read too much of this series.

-Nancy

( I will be taking a brief break from writing for the blog, as my family is heading to Florida for a vacation. But never fear- Kathleen and I rearranged our Wednesday posts so she will be writing next week, and Michael from My Comic Relief wrote us an awesome guest post about Deadpool for next Friday. I hope to get some good reading done, plus I’ll still be peeking in at the comments and checking Twitter while I am soaking in the rays. Stay geeky my friends!)

Young, Skottie, Jean-Francois Beaulieu, Nate Piekos. I Hate Fairyland: Fluff My Life. 2016.

I Hate Fairyland: Madly Ever After

Whoa, this book! It was so fluffing inappropriate,  bloody and over the top. So of course I loved it.

I first became aware of this book when one of my fav bloggers @ The Green Onion Blog reviewed it, and then a friend of mine on Goodreads, so afterwards I knew I had to check it out. When I requested it at my go-to comic book store, Graham Crackers, they asked me where I planned to keep it at the library, and after I assured them it would be in the adult section, they told me they knew I’d love it (They know me well!).

The writer and illustrator, Skottie Young, has quite a distinctive illustrative style and is already well known for his past work such as Rocket Raccoon and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.  Plus, his chubby baby superheroes are a fan favorite for variant art in the Marvel books. As such, he is the only artist I can imagine pulling off this storyline.

The cover art and title page splash panels show us that we are in for a gruesome treat. We are then introduced to sweet green haired Gertrude in her home as she wishes for a fairy land adventure. The phrase “Be careful what you wish for” is accurate here, for she is unceremoniously dropped, or shall I say plunged into Fairyland. She is met by Queen Cloudia and all the cute citizens of the realm and told all she has to do is find a key back to her world. Expecting this would only take a day, she is given a map and a guide, Larry the fly. Things don’t go as planned, and although Gertrude does not look as though she has aged, 27 years has gone by, and Gertrude has turned into a foul mouthed psychopath.

The Queen is quite disturbed as Gertrude terrorizes Fairyland, still on her quest to get the muffin fluffing way out of there. As the queen can not be the one who hurts a guest of the land, she employs others to do her bidding. It doesn’t go well. The final straw for Gertrude is when another little girl is successful in her quest for the key, when Gertrude herself has been unable to find her way back home. All chaos breaks loose, with some hilariously gory sequences, and a twist to keep Gertrude in Fairyland permanently.

Read this candy colored comic book, only if you have a sick sense of humor and are not offended easily. If you meet the above criteria, you will not be disappointed in this violent comedic series, and it will become a guilty pleasure of yours!

-Nancy

Young, Skottie, Jean-Francois Beaulieu, Nate Piekos. I Hate Fairyland: Madly Ever After. 2016.

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