Mild Spoilers Ahead
Skywise flies over Starhome with his cub, Jink. Skywise is elated to raise his daughter in this time of peace, though something gnaws at the back of his mind. He’s distracted from this when he realizes Jink left her pod, and the two scour Palace City for it. This search leads them through the troll caverns and into the woods where Skywise reunites with Strongbow. The two discuss their losses, and Skywise cannot move past his longing for Cutter, though he’s reluctant to summon Cutter’s spirit. Strongbow tells Skywise that he needs to look into himself to discern why he hasn’t summoned Cutter’s spirit, and Skywise goes back to Timmain to learn what she and Cutter had kept from him.
Have you ever vaguely known a franchise, never really looked into it, but then one day decide to check it out, only to discover that it has a long and immeasurably dense history?
That was my experience reading and performing follow-up research for Elfquest: Stargazer’s Hunt #1. I had only known Elfquest by name and distinctive art style. I didn’t truly realize what I had gotten into when I chose this book for the week’s review lineup.
I knew it was the beginning of a new story and volume, so I thought it may be a good time to check it out. To Stargazer’s Hunt’s credit, it goes out of its way to state and reiterate each character’s relationship to one another. The story opens up on a strange note, discussing Jink’s older sister who is also older than Skywise, and that didn’t really help my subsequent confusion.
Again, the comic does accommodate new readers in a way many franchises don’t. That said, I’m not sure it’s possible to be accommodating enough. Skywise’s story alone seems to be deep and broad in the way a Big Two character who’s been around since 1940 would be.
Fluidity seems to be a theme with Elfquest. Time, mortality, communication, relationships, species, gender–nothing seems static. Skywise is a High One and a Wolfrider, and he can shift his height at will. Cutter is dead, but his spirit need only be summoned. Everyone can speak or telepathically communicate by “sending.” It’s honestly quite captivating, even if it’s a lot to take in for a newbie like myself.
If I had a genuine criticism separated from my own unfamiliarity with Elfquest and its dense lore, it would be the lack of a real conflict until the last few pages. Skywise’s longing for Cutter lingers throughout the comic, but it isn’t until the second half that he attaches that longing to a vague distrust and feeling that Cutter and Timmain kept something from Skywise. Even then, it just boils in the background until it’s time for the ending cliffhanger.
There is a vexing disconnect between the complex ideas with which Elfquest: Stargazer’s Hunt grapples and the seemingly kid-oriented nature of this plot and the art style. The following isn’t intended as a criticism: Elfquest’s art style always seemed to be that of a children’s picture book. It’s distinct and appealing, but it has the caricature and hyperbolic aesthetic one would affiliate with children’s animation and graphic literature. The focus on Jink and her mischief in this book, as well as the often direct manner in which Skywise discusses his thoughts and feelings, makes the story feel a little child-oriented as well. However, the mature manner in which it talks about death, life, and the complex feelings of loss one can feel, seems to gear the book more towards an adult audience.
To go back to the art, Sonny Strait does a fantastic job here. The aesthetic is very distinct and absorbing, and the movement flows well from panel to panel. There are times where the background detail seems a bit disconnected from the foreground, but that’s the only real criticism I have for the book. The color palette is fantastic. Every page practically explodes with color.
Elfquest: Stargazer’s Hunt #1 fascinated me in a way few comics do. There is a lot going on thematically with this comic, and it’s otherworldly language, idioms, and society has a lot of narrative potential (clearly true from the 40+ years of history this franchise has). I struggle to recommend it to another newbie like myself, as it is extremely dense. However, I do find myself still wanting to tell others to check it out, even if they’ve never read any Elfquest material before. Check this one out.
Elfquest: Stargazer’s Hunt #1 comes to us from writers Wendy and Richard Pini, artist Sonny Strait, letterer Nate Piekos of Blambot, and cover artist Wendy Pini.
Final Score: 8/10