ElfQuest was the first comic book I really loved. It was also my first “adult” comic; after reading Betty & Veronica digests and incomprehensible 90s X-Men comics as a tween, ElfQuest felt thrilling and new, with just enough sexuality and violence for me to keep the books on a shelf where my parents couldn’t see. The story of Cutter, a young elfin chief determined to unite the race of elves scattered across the alien World of Two Moons, ElfQuest was a mature, thoughtful work that avoided many of the clichés that plague fantasy fiction. Many comics are still trying to catch up with what ElfQuest accomplished in the 1970s and 80s.
But, perhaps most importantly, ElfQuest was the comic that kept me reading comics. At a time when I was finding the comic book store’s posters of Lady Death and Shi uncomfortable in a way I couldn’t really express, ElfQuest showed me that it was okay for girls to read comics. After all, it was co-created and drawn by a woman, Wendy Pini, and featured a large cast of unique and well-developed female characters. Sometimes when we revisit beloved books of our past we find disappointment, but Dark Horse’s recent re-release of the original ElfQuest comic has reinvigorated my love for the fantasy series. So I’m really loving Dark Horse’s new release ElfQuest: The Original Quest Gallery Edition.
This new oversized hardcover collects the first five issues of ElfQuest (the “Fire and Flight” arc) scanned from Wendy Pini’s original art—the next best thing to having the original pages in your hand. Gallery editions are known for high quality reproductions of original comic book art drawn by masters of the art form (Walt Simonson, Dave Gibbons, and Jim Steranko have all gotten the Artist Edition treatment, to name a few) but ElfQuest: The Original Quest Gallery Edition is notable for being one of the first editions dedicated to a female artist’s work. Wendy Pini is one of the most underrated character designers in comics—she was one of the first Western artists to be influenced by manga, and Amanda Conner recently named her as an inspiration—and the Gallery Edition is a fascinating glimpse at the beginning of her career and the evolution of her style. I hope this first volume is a success and Dark Horse releases the rest of the Original Quest in the deluxe Gallery Edition format. (I can’t imagine how gorgeous the original art to one of my favorite storylines, “Captives of Blue Mountain,” must be.) ElfQuest: The Original Quest Gallery Edition probably isn’t where you should start reading the series for the first time (again, check out the new omnibus editions), but it’s a fantastic new way to look at one of the best fantasy comics of the last thirty years.