Elfquest Archives: Vol. 2 / 1-4012-0129-6
It's odd, and very frustrating, that this wonderful volume is apparently out of print. Odd, because the other four archives are all apparently still available, and frustrating because the comics most certainly are sequential and it would be very jarring to skip over this essential volume.
As I noted in my review for the first volume, this archive is massively colorful and detailed - the gorgeous drawings are so artistic that you can't help but be drawn instantly into the story. Volume 2 takes off sometime after Volume 1 - Leetah has given birth to twins (the first the elves have ever seen) and Ember (a girl) and Suntop (a boy) are as different as day and night, but both are beautiful, loving, vivacious children. In a nice inversion of 'tradition', Ember is the strong warrior child, destined to take over the mantle of chief when her father passes, and Suntop is a sensitive child, deeply attuned to magic and knowledge of the 'elder elves', with a bright future as a seer and philosopher for their people. Cutter and Leetah accept their children's gifts and differences with nary a thought otherwise, and both the Wolfriders and the Sun People are pleased with the beautiful children in their midst.
When Cutter becomes obsessed with finding the 'High Ones' (the parents of all elves), however, Leetah and the children stay home while he sets out with steadfast friend Skywise for a year-long quest to find out what they can from the wide world about the origins of the elves, and their future destination. Before long, though, young Suntop is given a magical warning for his father than only he can deliver, and Leetah is forced to set aside her fears of the outside world in order to take the children and the Wolfriders to seek out their chief.
I've noted before that it's hard to know how to classify ElfQuest within a genre. Volume 2 contains a great deal of 'action', particularly as Cutter and Skywise are captured by trolls and must use their wits, speed, and size to turn the situation to their advantage and escape, and while the quest for the High Ones is in itself an adventure, it's difficult to just slap the 'action-adventure' label without also considering the philosophy and emotion behind the scenes. There is a great deal of exploration within Cutter and Leetah's relationship (Leetah loves her mate, but is having trouble adjusting to the odd hours the Wolfriders keep; Cutter loves Leetah and her people, but longs for the woods again), within Leetah's fears and anxieties (Leetah fears leaving the safety of the village, but also frets that her presence as a healer has weakened the Sun People and made them dependent upon her), and within the differences between young Ember and Suntop, as both of them defy stereotyping and demonstrate a realism often missing from children in literature. Reasonable people can disagree as to whether the frank discussions of love, lust, morality, and mortality are appropriate for children or not, but 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 - I just wish this volume hadn't been so hard to locate.
~ Ana Mardoll