For the first half of “Elfquest: The Final Quest” #3, it’s easy to get a little antsy, but perhaps not for the reason that you’d expect from Wendy and Richard Pini. The new installment from what promises to be the final big “Elfquest” series inches along, re-introducing characters even as elves half a world away from the main action talk amongst themselves. But by the end of the issue, the Pinis have rallied a bit and end the issue with a bang. Literally.
It’s a bit of a shame that “Elfquest: The Final Quest” #3 starts off so slowly. No doubt the subplots involving characters like Strongbow, Moonshade and Windkin will eventually pay off. And considering that those early pages focus on a lot of the core characters that long-time “Elfquest” readers grew to love, I understand the Pinis’ desire to not go an issue without checking in on them at least a little bit. Having an issue without Cutter, Leetah, Sunsteram or even Savah would be a little odd, and after all they’re going to get pulled into the main storyline sooner or later. But with Ember’s tribe being the one in jeopardy, constantly pulling away to check in on everyone else feels like a tease; doubly so when there’s even a page that stops to reintroduce all of the members of that tribe.
But then you get to the final pages of the comic, and everything’s turned upside down. The Pinis have always done a good job of advancing the technology on Abode (especially after the huge jump forward within the pages of “Elfquest: Kings of the Broken Wheel”), beginning the series when humanity were savages, and advancing them to a medieval society. This latest addition to the world of “Elfquest” is a huge game-changer, though, just as it was in our own history. With the elves normally holding the upper hand with those who have had extra powers, this not only levels the playing field, it tilts it in the favor of humans. Suddenly, the subtitle of, “The Final Quest” has an even more ominous meaning than before.
Wendy Pini’s art continues to look as good as ever. Pulling down some of my collected volumes from the ’80s, characters like Moonshade haven’t changed their basic appearance at all, but they’re a little more refined and textured now. Her hair, for instance, looks much fuller and more full of life. Wendy Pini is also still great when it comes to facial expressions. Just look at the bottom of page 6, with the Djun and Ember staring at one another. The way they lock eyes, the set expression on Ember’s face even as the Djun talks to her… it’s wonderfully ominous and creepy. And just as a sidenote, I appreciate greatly that the humans of Abode (or at least the ones that we’re seeing) aren’t the typical Caucasian faces that you’d almost expect. Instead, their Eurasian features and manner of clothing add a certain level of extra interest, matching well with how the structure of the Djun’s political structure brings to mind the Mongols.
It’s fun to have an ongoing “Elfquest” series published once more, and one that feels like it has some big and strong consequences. (Also, for those who only read the collected editions, you’ll have a nice surprise with the reprinting of the “A Day in the Lives” gag cartoons that us super-long-time readers would occasionally find in the letter columns.) Where do we go from here? I’m not sure, but I’m already eager to find out what happens next.