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‘The Complete ElfQuest Volume 3:’ Advance Trade Paperback Review

I have a deeply personal connection to Wendy and Richard Pini’s ElfQuest series. Decades have passed since I was a young kid that discovered a collection at the library. Their version of elves was a breath of fresh air next to series like Dragonlance and Lord of the Rings. These elves are marginalized, forced to be nomadic, and more tribal rather than being an aloof and magical race. On top of the (at the time) unusual take on elves, the art was so impactful that I still have entire panels etched into my mind, even after all this time. The enduring nature of the series is understandable, and each new collection is a reminder of just how luminary the series really is.

The Complete ElfQuest Volume 3 is yet another beautiful entry, bringing together a dreamy storyline, rooted more in fleshing out the history of the elf tribes and taking a break of the action of previous volumes. Throughout most of this collection, the elves are asleep, waiting for the passage of ten thousand years, so they can reunite with all the tribes. A strange setting for sure, but it is yet another example of just how landmark ElfQuest is.

Since our heroes are sleeping, this series of stories take the form of dreams, documenting the history and traditions instead of moving forward. Typically, that sort of storytelling grates on me. Dream sequences in general are difficult to make matter for me, since it is usually a cheap storytelling device. Yet, because this works as a history lesson and as world building, it is one of the best series of stories.

What makes this storyline work is, without a doubt, the art. Instead of a more realistic design, each panel whorls and twists itself, without ever losing definition. Pages fly by without any sort of dialogue, yet everything is conveyed effortlessly. The ephemeral nature fits not just the dream state the elves are in, but also the telepathic connections the tribe uses to communicate. These moments flit in and out between more traditional memories that look like the normal comic book. The Pinis have never shied away from jumping back and forth between past and present, but using dreams to transition resulted in some arresting visuals that the series had never hit before.

As always, the writing is rich and colorful, peppered with elven vernacular and signature curses one expects from ElfQuest. It was almost shocking to go back as an adult and get a full understanding of just how detailed the world really is. While we began following Cutter and his tribe, they are such a tiny part of the world, and watching it flesh itself out is almost overwhelming at times.

On its own, the collection would be utterly bizarre and an impossible entry point, but laid out with the previous issues, it is a must own for fans and stands as the best entry into this trip down memory lane to date. It is a must buy for fans new and old.


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