Elfquest Archives: Vol. 3 / 1-4012-0412-0
The quest continues as Cutter and his tribe and loved ones search for the High Ones. As I noted in my review for the first volume, these archives are massively colorful and detailed - with artistic drawings that draw the reader in and a sensitive and intelligent handling of all subject matter. Volume 3 takes off immediately after Volume 2, as Cutter and his people are forced into a confrontation with the powerful "Bird Tribe" of elves.
The Wolfriders, as we have seen, are close kith and kin to their wolves, and these Bird Riders present an interesting contrast. Similarly to the Wolfriders, they are deeply distressed when their mounts are wounded or killed; and in an interesting twist, we meet an elf who so wanted to be a bird that he was willing to give up much of his lovely form in order to gain wings. Yet these Bird Riders are cold and cruel, headed by a villainess who tortures the Wolfriders for pleasure and seeks to undermine her lord at every possible turn.
Interestingly, the point is made that the Wolfrider elves are related closely to the Bird Riders, despite their differences, and - like the recognition between Cutter and Leetah that symbolized the relationship between the tribes of the Wolfriders and the Sun People - there is a newly recognized couple that will similarly symbolize the interactions between Wolfriders and this new Bird Rider tribe. The Pinis shy away from easy answers and happy endings, though, as the strained relationship between the two tribes demonstrate over the course of this novel.
I've noted before that it's hard to know how to classify ElfQuest within a genre. Although Volume 3 doesn't lack for tense action, notably in the tribulations of the captured riders and in the skirmishes between the two tribes, there is a greater focus on philosophy and emotion. The villainess of the novel is particularly fascinating, and she is used to great effect to explore the origins of the Wolfriders, and Leetah's earlier reservations towards her lifemate. The new recognition romance is beautifully done, in such a way that handles prejudice and differences in culture neatly. Both of the participants come to understand that they have something meaningful to offer to one another, while never losing sight of those supportive loved ones who have been there behind the scenes all this time. And, once again, there will be differences of opinion on whether this volume is appropriate for non-adults, but I still believe that you'll likely not find a more thoughtful approach to the subject matter.
Because I'm a new fan, I can't speak to how this archive compares to the original old issues. Snippets of the old issues are included in the beginning and ending of each archive; sometimes in black-and-white panels, others in full color portraits and covers. I believe, however, that the spirit of the original was perfectly preserved, and I'm grateful for this availability of this issue.
~ Ana Mardoll