The very first comic I bought was the original "Elfquest" #5 published by Warp Graphics; I'd gotten hooked on the series thanks to some other people on my school bus, and after reading the first four issues I couldn't wait for the next week to find out what happened next. And as a gateway into comics, it functioned marvelously; a mixture of flights of fancy and brutal, nasty plot twists, "Elfquest" had me jumping and agonizing for new issues during its original 20-issue run.
I ended up drifting away from Wendy and Richard Pini's creation in the mid-'90s, though, when it went from a single title to six different books. Every now and then I'd dip in briefly to find out what was going on with "Elfquest," but on the whole I haven't read the book regularly for almost 20 years. I suspect I'm not the only long-term fan who's found himself intrigued enough about the start of the long-promised "Elfquest: The Final Quest" series, though; after a one-shot last year that helped wrap up some plot threads from the last mini-series (published by DC Comics), it's finally kicking off this week, with Wendy and Richard Pini once more at the helm.
I suspect that the Pinis understood all too well that some readers who hadn't been around for a while might be dipping back in, and so far they seem to be trying to ease us in. There's some good attempts at exposition here; explaining the existence of Ember's own tribe of Wolfriders far away from the main group, for instance, or letting us know how relative newcomers like Pool, Teir and Sust are. There's a fine line to be walked here, and I feel like they pull it off. We don't get a long description on who Lehrigen is, for instance, but the reactions of the different Wolfriders is enough to let us understand that he's an old enemy. At the same time, though, there's only so much catching up that they can provide. Teir's reaction to the braid and the revelation of his parentage won't have any real impact to newer readers, for instance; it's definitely a nugget for those who have stuck through the entire saga to date.
In terms of plotting, "Elfquest: The Final Quest" #1 meanders a bit here and there, but it's definitely moving forward. Some of the parts feel a bit too much "we're setting this up for later," like Moonshine's attempts to decide if she would give up her mortality. Once we shift to Ember's tribe, though, I feel like the Pinis are moving forward at a much better pace. With a concrete problem to fight, there's more for readers to focus on and get intrigued by. As war begins to break out in that part of the world, it feels like Ember's elves are rapidly getting pushed into a corner from which there's no easy escape.
The art in "Elfquest: The Final Quest" reminds me a lot about what I enjoy about Wendy Pini's art. Watching Teir bound through the enemy camp is great; there's so much energy in those pages, and it helps explain the longevity of "Elfquest" over the years. A few of the other pages -- usually when characters are reacting to something -- feel a little stiff, though. She's certainly much better at the more action-oriented sequences, and it's there that I feel we're seeing Pini's strength, although there are quieter ones that sing quite well too.
"Elfquest: The Final Quest" #1 is a good start to this new bi-monthly series. Old fans will find a lot to enjoy here, and newer readers should hopefully not be too lost. And with all of the old "Elfquest" comics available for free at the official website, well, this might get me to finally sit down and catch up on everything I've missed. (Likewise, for those interested and wanting to read from the start, at least make sure to check out the original 20-issue run on that site.) It's nice to see the Pinis back in action once more.