Elfquest. To some hearing those words would leave a confused expression upon their faces, but to others it signals an epic adventure waiting to happen! And one that has been around for a very, very long time.
In this first book, collecting over 700 pages of their adventures, Chief Cutter and the Wolfriders are driven from their homelands by the threat of death. They discover a vast and ever-changing landscape that holds humans, cave trolls, other elfin tribes with powers long thought to be lost, and more than they thought possible. Alliances are forged, enemies appear, and battles are fought. This is the beginning quest of the Wolfriders.
Wendy Pini and her husband Richard launched Elfquest in 1978 and it was one of the first underground comics to gain a large following. Not only that, but it was crafted and created by a female writer/artist, had strong female characters, and interracial relationships. Elfquest is an epic story that many, many readers wished could be real. It crossed boundaries that had rarely been broken before. Heck, at one point it crossed into Piers Anthony’s Xanth world because of Jenny, a young girl in a coma who was a fan of both series. Jenny’s parents asked Anthony and the Pinis to create something together that would maybe help Jenny come out of the coma. Yes, this really happened. And yes it was as epic as it sounds.
Elfquest came to define a generation of readers and to be honest, it still stands the test of time. Not only does the story define how to write and create epic female friendships, it shows how to write relationships in general. This is the book younger audiences should read about learning how to find themselves. The characters aren’t two-dimensional, half-written creatures that are all muscles and curves, they are real people. They have problems, they have fights, they love each other and work stuff out by actually doing something about it. This is something that more characters should do. Heck, its something that more people should do in general!
Since first being self-published by the Pinis in 1978, Elfquest has never really gone out of print. Sure specific editions have, but there have always been publishers looking to bring it to wider audiences. Which publishers? Oh…just no-names like Marvel, DC, and now Dark Horse. I mean…they’re just little publishers right?
The one caveat I have about this edition is that it is just black and white, while the original comics were full color. To be fair, printing this entire first volume in color would be horrendously expensive, but at the same time you miss out on how the characters look with the color of their skin, hair, eyes, and so on. The color also really showcased the vivid landscapes that are encountered throughout the book. Another potential downside is that this book is printed at  a smaller size than some of the original collections. You can kind of tell this because the pages are crammed with lots of wonderful details hidden in the images, details that are harder to see on a smaller page.
If you were a fan of the series growing up, then the appeal of this book is obvious. But even if you’ve never seen it before, pick this book up. Become a fan of the quest and see why the story stands the test of time. See what draws it along and creates this epic world we can all fall in love with. Young, old, male, female, elf, wolf, it doesn’t matter. There’s something here for everyone. And something for future generations to look forward to, too.
The Complete Elfquest, vol. 1
by Wendy and Richard Pini
ISBN: 9781616554071
Dark Horse Comics, 2014
  • Dani Shuping

    Past Reviewer

    This reviewer is not longer actively working on our site, but we would not be here if not for our many dedicated contributors over the years. We thank all of them for their reviews, features, and support! Dani Shuping is currently a wandering librarian looking for a home. She has been involved in libraries for over nine years and and has had an interest in graphic novels since before that time. Dani began the graphic novel collection at Mercer, works with an English professor from time to time on a class on graphic novels, and just recently started a graphic novel book discussion group. She love attendings comic conventions, especially the smaller ones when they can, and one day may just have a comic of their own. Dani can be found at ashuping.net and goes by the user name ashuping where ever they can, such as on Twitter: @ashuping.

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