Elfquest: The Final Quest
I was very excited when I discovered this graphic novel with Skywise, Cutter, and Leetah on the cover. I grew up on classic Elfquest and have read and reread the original graphic novels many times over the years.
A lot has changed since the late ‘80s. For me and for the elves. New elves and tribes have been added to the existing wolfriders including sea elves and another tribe of wolfriders led by Cutter’s daughter Ember. While it was great to see the elves I was familiar with, there were too many divergent plots for my taste. While I understand that there would be unfamiliar characters, relationships, and plotlines, Elfquest: The Final Quest suffers from overcrowding. Like Crisis on Infinite Earths or any superhero battle royale, there are too many characters to focus on the story. In addition to the multiple tribes and all their characters, there are new human villains with technology to focus on. All in all, like Thanksgiving dinner, Final Quest was something I had to do, but I’m glad it’s over.
Look for reviews of the aforementioned classic Elfquests in future posts. I can’t wait.
Elfquest: The Final Quest combines issues 1-6. Art and writing by Richard and Wendi Pini
Month: January 2019
Bone: Out From Boneville (2002)
Cousins Fone (naked), Phoney (star on his shirt), and Smiley Bone (taller, smokes a cigar) have been banished from Boneville for Phoney’s latest monetary scam of his fellow townspeople. The threesome is separated and they find out that the world is much bigger and more dangerous than they had ever imagined.
The humor, art, and storytelling are G-rated, meaning that there is danger without violence, and characterization without sex or profanity. However, the portrayal of a female human gives the story a hint of sex, which is strange. Fone Bone watches from afar as Thorn takes off her pants and bathes in a hot spring. When the two meet, he falls instantly in love (as portrayed by the hearts circling his head). Later, Thorn is sexualized when she wakes up from a nightmare and her bare shoulder is exposed. I know what you’ll say; “Jan, you’re projecting your own thoughts onto this delightful kid’s comic.” Perhaps, but the oddities continue. Later, when Fone Bone and Thorn (121) are returning to a cabin, Thorn’s cleavage is on display. Finally, on the inside back cover is the image of Thorn from behind holding hands with Fone and Phoney and she’s wearing a suggestively short skirt. What’s my point? The artist, Jeff Smith, has 100% control of how his art appears and these images made me shake my head and wonder why, in an otherwise G-rated comic, would he personify the only female character (other than her grandmother) with these, albeit brief, sexual images?
Furthermore, I’m sure Smith does a lot to explain the world in the coming issues, but I was confused. It’s a fantasy world with dragons, prophecies, talking bugs, rat-creatures, and Sauron-esque bad guys, but the world also includes real-world items, such as comic books, dollar bills, the novel Moby Dick. These “real” items run the risk or ruining the fantasy the writer has worked hard to create.
Bone is an “all-ages” comic that feels like Calvin and Hobbes meets The Hobbit. It has received glowing reviews from The Comics Journal, Will Eisner, and Publisher’s Weekly using words such as “witty” and “masterful”. There is nothing wrong with Bone. It is well-drawn, there are no gaps in the storytelling, and it is a well-received, long-lasting comic book. I really enjoyed Rose, Thorn’s grandmother (ohhhh, I get it!) who races cows, singlehandedly beats a horde of rat creatures, and has a previous relationship with, and intimidates, the dragon. However, I wasn’t drawn in by the world or its characters. Fone and Phoney’s names are a bit too similar for my liking; a small complaint I know, but the similarity confused me at first. Phoney is a money-grubbing trickster who’s backstory makes him seem like a psychopath. Smiley is the light-hearted, agreeable type, and Fone is the stable one. I chuckled once or twice, but otherwise, the jokes aren’t that funny or clever. While Bone appeals to many readers, I found myself unenchanted.
Bone: Out From Boneville collects issues Bone: 1-5 and was originally published in 1993. Art and story by Jeff Smith.
Y: The Last Man: Volume One
Y: The Last Man
No capes. No monsters. No heroes (well, there’s one-his sister, Hero). No powers. No villains. No magic (possibly a magic medallion). Y: The Last Man isn’t like most other comic books.
Without warning or explanation, every male on earth dies. The story centers on the humans, but all the male animals die as well, leaving the females to clean up a patriarchal civilization.
The Why in the comic book is:
It reads like Heroes or Lost, or even 24. You might respond with “Isn’t there a show about the last man on earth called, um, The Last Man on Earth?” Well, invisible questioner, that’s true. But the show is different because it’s a comedy and the comic book is more of a dramatic fantasy. The comic came first, and it’s hard not to imagine that the basic idea of the show was inspired by (ripped off) the comic. No spoilers, but the climax of the first trade paperback is a plot point in the show.
Y: The Last Man is thought-provoking in its execution. The real world concerns of every male dying at once are addressed (What do the survivors do with the bodies? What about the mostly-male governments of the world?) Yorkick, an English-major and escape artist, along with his monkey Ampersand, does his best to travel from the United States to Australia to reunite with his fiancee. Along the way, he encounters violent Amazons, the remnants of the elected government escape from the White House, and a discovers a seemingly utopian town. Did I mention that technology has been knocked for a loop? Oh yeah, the phones don’t work and things like cars and gasoline are scarce.
I look forward to reading the other books in the series. There are many mysteries to be answered, such as: What happened to wipe out half the human race? Will Yorick reach his girlfriend? What’s the deal with his sister? Is Yorick (and his monkey) really the last man (males) on Earth?
Y: The Last Man is written by Brian K. Vaughan and illustrated by Pia Guerra and published by Vertigo, an imprint of DC Comics collecting issues 1-10.
Star Wars: Shattered Empire (2015)
Shattered Empire picks up just as Return of the Jedi ends, but the heroes of the movie are mostly supporting characters. The main character is rebel-pilot Shara Bey, a woman who has sacrificed much for the rebellion and feels guilty for her desire to settle down with her husband and child. If you were hoping to see Luke and his fellow scoundrels from the films, they’re all there driving the plot and interweaving their stories with hers.
Shara Bey accompanies Luke on a stealth mission to rescue a pair of Force Trees from Imperial hands. Princess Leia has an interesting story as she travels to Naboo with Shara Bey and interacts with the planet made famous in Episodes 1-3. What is noteworthy about this storyline is what is unsaid. Naboo is the home of Queen Amidala, Leia’s biological mother, a plot point I hope the comics follow.
The art and storytelling are excellent, even if I was distracted by the space battles. The whole “Red One” to “Red Leader” type of dialogue works in the movies but falls short in a comic book. Otherwise, the art from paneling to colors, to inks and lettering are well done.
Shattered Empire kicks off a new line of Star Wars comics featuring new and old characters. Is it a must-read? Not really. There aren’t any new plot threads left hanging, nor are there any dramatic moments that make this story stand out. Shara is a competent character with a believable back-story, and the returning characters are fun but aren’t necessary other than to give readers a hook.
Also, included in the collected edition is issue 1 of Princess Leia and a throwback first-issue of the original comic adaptation of the first movie. Leia is excellent (look for that in a future review) but 1977 Staw Wars is missable if you saw the movie.
Star Wars: Shattered Empire #1-4 is written by Greg Rucka, and illustrated by Marco Checchetto and Angel Unzueta with Emilio Laiso. It also features Princess Leia #1 and Star Wars (1977) #1. It is published by Marvel/Disney
365 Graphic Novels
My goal for 2019 is to read a graphic novel or comic book trade paperback collection and discuss them each day. I will write about the plot, art, relevance, links to a continuing mythos and/or my personal connection to the book. Think of it as a mini review. Feel free to debate my thoughts. Tell me why I’m wrong and missed the whole point of a revolutionary graphic novel, or how I elevated some piece of shit to undeserved artistic status. Or, <gasp> how you agree with my findings. Let’s discuss.