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WesternSFA
Elfquest, Book 1
Including: Fire & Flight, Raid at Sorrow's End, The Challenge, Madcoil, Voice of the Sun
by Wendy & Richard Pini
Starblaze Editions/Donning, full color graphic novel, copyright 1981

This is where it really all began – graphic novels, I mean. The Pinis were putting out an exciting little comic, with a different take on elves, back in the late ‘70s. At a time when such comics were in their infancy, the Pinis were innovators. In 1981, the first graphic novel in full color was created and boy-oh-boy, was it beautiful. Full of action, personality and the sexiest elves in creation. These were stories that focused more on character exploration and development than violence and mayhem, the staple of most adult comics. And they were so compelling and interesting. I’ve been a lifelong fan and I am thrilled to know the Pinis are back at the helm with new stories coming out from their partnership with Dark Horse Comics.

The first graphic novel is the beginning of what is referred to as the Original Quest. It chronicles a group of forest-dwelling elves, with wolves as companions, led by a chief named Cutter. These elves are descended from a group of aliens who crash-landed on an earth-like planet but were pursued and killed by primitive humans. The memory of those progenitors has all but faded. They still have an ongoing and often violent relationship with the humans although the elves, for the most part, are peace-loving. In their final altercation, after the humans captured and tortured one of their own, the elves retaliate killing a human; so the humans decide to burn down the forest to drive them out. With nowhere else to go, the elves go to the trolls who live in the mountains. Based on a long-standing trade relationship, the elves hope to find help and safety. The Troll King, unhappy with the insulting and cavalier attitude of the elves, decides instead to exile them where they won’t bother the trolls ever again. So, on the other side of a long tunnel under the mountains, the elves find themselves trapped in a trackless desert instead of a welcoming forest. With a lodestone stolen from the trolls, the elves find they are able to navigate across the desert and they finally find safety and welcome with a strange group of elves who live there. After a rocky beginning, where Cutter kidnaps a female elf, they are welcomed into the new tribe. Then the story explores the new relationship of Cutter with Leetah after they have ‘recognized’ each other. This ‘recognition’ presages a permanent bond between elves, so strong they cannot deny it. It doesn’t necessarily mean love, but it does mean extremely gifted and powerful children. The elves have few of the gifts their ancestors had but they can still communicate telepathically, including with their wolves. The new tribe, called the Sun Folk, have all but lost all the gifts with the notable exceptions of Leetah who is a gifted healer, and her lover, Rayek, who uses his telepathy to hunt for the tribe.

The five collected stories start with their holt being burned down and the trek across the desert, then a challenge duel between Cutter and Rayek for the right to court Leetah, diverges for a bit with a retrospective of Cutter’s parents and an earlier catastrophe that decimated the tribe and ended with Cutter as new Chief, and then ends with a resolution to the Cutter-Leetah-Rayek triangle.

The elves are sumptuously drawn and colored and the lettering fun and easy to follow. These stories have really stood the test of time. If you’ve never known Elfquest, now is a good time to start since new stories are coming out for the first time in a long time. The Pinis have a website where you can read all the old stories for free. The actual books are hard to come by.

I will also be starting an Elfquest trivia game next month, so stay tuned. ~~ Catherine Book

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