Elfquest, the breakout fantasy comic that debuted in 1977, has been noticeably absent for several years. New material has appeared, but only sporadically, with the last stories published nearly two years ago. But now Wendy and Richard Pini are back with a beautiful new graphic novel, The Searcher and the Sword.
The elf-like Wolfriders, led by Cutter Kinseeker, have returned to their ancient forest home after untold years of wandering and war.
Accompanying them is Shuna, a human girl adopted by Cutter and his lifemate Leetah, after the last brutal clash between elves and humans.
But Shuna wants to be more than just a hanger-on in the close-knit tribe; to that end, Shuna travels with her friends Dart and Kimo, to try to form peaceable contacts between the Wolfriders and humans.
Meanwhile, Wolfrider elder Treestump has worried about the problem of acquiring the metal weapons sorely needed by the tribe. They previously traded with the trolls, who were metalsmiths, but the trolls have long since abandoned their tunnels. Treestump, always one to tackle a problem head-on, decides to puzzle out the secrets of smithing, with nothing to go on but vague clues and sheer stubbornness. But his quest may put the tribe in danger, in a way they never expected.
Wendy Pini’s artwork is among the best in the business. Lush and sensuous, with great attention to detail, every panel is deserving of second and third looks (and that’s just on the first read-through!). Fans of the series will enjoy how Wendy’s drawing style has matured even further. Readers should note that this story is more human-centered, with less about the elves than we might wish, but the narrative does allow us a glimpse of elves from the human perspective.
Graphic novels must show rather than tell … or, at least, the best ones do. Here, the artist conveys volumes with facial expressions and posture, and the story feels much more dense than its 94 pages might suggest. Readers new to graphic novels will find that the form has much to offer, in quite a different way than prose tales.
I’m overjoyed by the return of Elfquest. Rich and evocative, The Searcher and the Sword represents the best that fantasy currently offers.