ElfQuest: The Final Quest #1
Script: Wendy & Richard Pini
Art: Wendy Pini
Colors: Sonny Strait
Publisher: Dark Horse
Elf Quest is a fantasy comic book series spanning over thirty-five years of published material. Created by Wendy and Richard Pini in 1978, the comic follows the story of the Wolfrider clan as they fight for survival against hordes of trolls and humans while seeking a land where they can live in peace. It’s a millennia spanning story with an expansive cast; as a result new readers may want to start with some of the early issues archived online before jumping into this current book. If nothing else I strongly recommend reading the prologue to The Final Quest before jumping into the current issue.
In many ways Wendy Pini is pioneer in comics both as a female artist and writer, but also as an independent publisher who has managed to capture the imagination of her audience through stories with strong male and female protagonists. ElfQuest has also had quite the interesting publishing history, being previously licensed to Marvel and then later DC Comics, as well as appearing in Pini’s own WaRP Graphics label for many years. Now back with a new series on Dark Horse, ElfQuest: The Final Quest looks intent on delivering the same epic fantasy-action experience with all the same characters fans have come to love since the beginning.
Story: The ElfQuest series explores many different races and areas of the world but the central theme generally remains the same through the entire run. The Wolfrider tribe is run by Cutter, who together with his main advisor Skywise, struggle to keep the clan safe as they search for their mythic homeland. Over the years the Wolfriders have encountered several other races of Elves (such as the Sun Folk and Future Folks) as different corners of the ElfQuest world were explored during their nomadic travels. As you can imagine over 30 years of publication has led to quite a few characters populating the page and it might be difficult for a new reader to know exactly what is going on. This issue itself jumps from viewpoint to viewpoint and seems intent on bringing together many previous plot threads and characters introduced over the course of the series. Ultimately however as much as things change in the ElfQuest universe the basic tenants of the series remain the same.
In the current issue a new group of warmongering humans are causing havoc and threatening the safety of the surrounding areas. The Elves are torn between assisting innocents and maintaining their own safety as it appears the marauders will quickly encroach into their home (known as a ‘holt’) during their march forward. This issue also focuses more on later additions to the ElfQuest cast such as Krim and touches back to many of the previous story lines including the Wolfriders earlier encounter with the Go Back tribe. If you are already familiar with the deep and storied lore of ElfQuest this will be a pleasure to read. However if you are new or simply just interested in sampling the world of ElfQuest, try starting at the free material online before jumping into the current series. Story Score: 7 out of 10.
Art: Wendy Pini has had almost three decades to perfect her art style and it’s one that uniquely establishes the look and feel of the ElfQuest world. Male and female elves have a pixie-esque depiction with faces and hair that almost seem to drift into manga territory at times. While some may dismiss the style as being overly childish, it does offer an interesting contrast to the mature tones explored in the book. Make no mistake: although these characters are often depicted as looking like they would fit into a Saturday morning cartoon, Pini draws many bloody battle scenes as well as many intimate depictions. This current series gives readers exactly what they’ve come to expect from the book as a whole and if anything the art style has taken advantage of modern coloring techniques to provide better shading and richer color palates. Art Score: 8 out of 10.
ElfQuest is a series which requires a bit of patience and dedication on the part of the reader. However there is clearly something to the series, having maintained a niche audience for over thirty years, while the fantasy genre has struggled for larger acceptance with mainstream comics fan. With the success of more recent properties like Game of Thrones and The Hobbit movie adaptions perhaps the time is finally right for ElfQuest to be introduced to a new generation of readers. It’s certainly worth taking a look at especially if you are interested in following the career of one of comic’s first female artists self-publishing in a male dominated medium. ElfQuest can get surprisingly dark at times although it’s tempered with many moments of levity to balance things out. Overall there is something here for all fans of the fantasy genre to enjoy.
Overall Score: 7.5 out of 10.