Book Title: The Complete ElfQuest Volume 3
Author: Wendy and Richard Pini (along with a few other contributors)
Style: Graphic Novel
Target Audience: Adult
Genres: Fiction, Fantasy
Page Count: 432
Format: Paperback (library)
Reading time: 3 hours
Date Finished: 3/04/17
Click here to find it on Amazon (New window)
In a word: Disappointing.
My impressions: I was as surprised as anyone how much I enjoyed ElfQuest’s first and second collection volumes. Here was a story that was unafraid to be cheesy or genre-specific and which managed to introduce a huge cast of characters, a world-spanning epic and (by the end of the second collection) a huge time travel conceit that all worked together in a magnificent manner. Seeing the story unfold and progress was a delight, and it just kept getting better and better.
I can’t say the same for the stories contained in Volume 3, sadly – they’re not a cohesive narrative, but rather, side stories called “The Hidden Years” and “Dreamtime” that are uneven in quality and which are mostly inessential reading. The first five “Hidden Years” stories are presented in full color, and these represent the best the compilation has to offer – five short stories about different elves. The story then jumps to a handful of stories about Rayek, resulting in a showdown between Rayek and Cutter which is largely just a bunch of pages of battling without much plot progression. The Hidden Years was produced during some turbulent times for the creative team and their publishing company, and the artwork isn’t nearly as consistent or as gorgeous as it was in the earlier collections.
I really disliked Dreamtime, which makes up the last hundred pages or so. It’s a compilation of 8 mini-comics about collective dreams the elves are having that the character Pike feels might be important for understanding the many mysteries left regarding their heritage. The problem is that because it’s told in dreams, there’s an unreality to everything, and that prevents me from being interested in anything that happens to the characters. I should add, I hate the “let’s explore a character’s dreams!” trope with a passion, as I feel it’s a narrative cheat that allows for unaccountable storytelling, where events that are important can be called prophetic and events that aren’t important can be called make-believe. The only way this story would have worked for me would have been if the elves were delving into the dream world as a fantasy setting to locate someone who had a direct influence on their reality.
All of this content, I’d say, is “for devoted fans only,” and I suppose I’m not enough of a fan yet to appreciate it. It’s like reading a comic book series written to fill in the gaps on a TV show, film or novel series – it’s interesting, but it’s not worth reading unless you’re truly invested in the characters and the intricate details of their world.
(I should note I am additionally aggravated that two of the comics, Hidden Years 6 and 7, are not included in this “complete” edition. Perhaps they’re not essential (and they can be read online for free), but in the chronology, they explain some of the backstory of the High Ones.)
The Complete EflQuest Volume 4 comes out in a couple of months, and while it includes more Hidden Years (sigh), it also includes the Shards saga that continues the story. Apparently, the story splits in two and Volume 5 will contain the other half. I’ll be interested to read both and see what happens next!