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Elfquest: Reunion. Written by Wendy and Richard Pini. Illustrated by various. Poughkeepsie, NY: Warp Graphics, 1999. 1v. (unpaged). (Elfquest Reader's Collection, Book 12a). $12.95. ISBN 0-936861-44-4


Adults, teens; mild gore

Reunion is the continuation of Ascent. If you haven't read that synopsis, go do so now, because I'm not gonna summarize What Came Before.

The revolt of the humans is reaching fever pitch. Hoping to definitively quell it, Grohmul Djun orders his mercenaries to capture Shuna. Elsewhere, Flam employs a little force to get Mender to heal himself, while Cutter, Drub, Zhantee, and Holdfast destroy a peace-hound, only to be confronted by Djun's men. In the Djun's castle, Venka finds Rayek and attempts to protect him from Winnowill, but Rayek insists she let him continue to distract his black-souled lovemate. The Djun recognizes that Venka is a shield against Winnowill, and, in return for dragging Winnowill away to let Venka have a few private moments with Rayek, extracts a promise from her to sleep with him. (He's also rather impressed by her straightforward demand that he give up the crystals.) This infuriates the smitten Two-Edge, who determines to help the elves regain the palace and destroy the Djun. He telepathically contacts Cutter, who doesn't trust him but has no choice but to follow his mental trail. Moving openly now (to the astonishment and awe of the humans), the elves converge on the castle, trailed by the remaining peace-hounds. Though they ultimately defeat the horrible beasts, the elves pay a terrible price to get past the drawbridge and into the castle itself.

At the same time, elsewhere in the city, Shuna confronts her mercenary father, who wants nothing more than to kill her. Although she fends him off, she is knocked out by another mercenary and is taken to the Djun's castle, where the sadistic "birds" are readied to tear the girl to shreds. Luckily, the preserver Tittersweet sees the preparations and warns the elves of Shuna's peril. Cutter determines to save the girl, and he and Zhantee leave the others to effect her rescue. The sight of Cutter, robed in Zhantee's shining shield, confronting the Djun and rescuing Shuna inspires the commoners as never before, and they begin to rampage through the castle. Unfortunately, their actions endanger the elves and Shuna, and they pay another terrible price as they plunge into the maze of traps that Two-Edge has prepared for the interlopers....

I'll stop the synopsis here, as to continue would be to reveal way too many spoilers. I will say, however, that at the core of the quest lies not only the re-creation of the Palace but also the defeat of Winnowill once and for all. A havoc-creater as a living being, she would be infinitely worse dead, with her black spirit infesting the Palace and turning its powers against the elves. So how are they to deal with her? How do you solve a problem like Winnowill? (Sorry, just saw The Sound of Music on stage.)

A thrilling end to an outstanding two-book quest, Reunion is full of wonderful images and heartbreaking moments. As William Goldman said in The Princess Bride (the book, not the movie), "Some of the wrong people die." But you won't soon forget those deaths... or Shuna's incredibly brave act that saves Strongbow's life... or Aroree's desperate flight through a hail of arrows... or (my favorite image) Cutter not getting skewered when he gets dumped into a pit full of spikes... or the brief but profound confrontation between the Djun and Cutter after the wolf-chief savs Shuna. The pacing never lets up; the action is always interesting. And I appreciate how certain moments of shocking brutality are not shown directly. It's one thing to watch peace-hounds be eviscerated in interesting ways, but when the victims are people we care about....

The various sets of art are fully up to the challenge of the story. All use outstanding camera angles and excellent pacing, plus some really nice two-page spreads; all delinate the scenes clearly, so that even in mob scenes, individual elements in the panels are discernable. I like all the styles so much that I can't even decide which is better--not bad! The art from issues 9-11 was obviously color to begin with; the subsequent art was black-and-white line art from the beginning, so in that sense the latter art is "better," but the slight fog that resulted from the 9-11 transfer to black-and-white actually works in its favor, giving the early part of the book a vague muddy look that is entirely appropriate for the setting. (In fact, it's a little startling in the later section when the panels appear in stark black-and-white for the first time; they almost seem too bright.)

The final chapter of the book is more of an illustrated story than a comic per se; it serves as the vehicle to bring together and tie up the story threads of the three quests (the Palace quest, Ember's holt quest, and Suntop's Forevergreen quest). After the wild action of the earlier material it's a nice cool-down, but too "wrap-uppy"--too stark about what everyone's going to do next. Given the large number of groups and agendas within the elves (let's see: Palace-masters, Ember's Wild Hunt band, Venka/Aroree/Two-Edge/Go-Backs, Rayek/Ekuar, Wolfriders, Sun Folk... that's quite a diaspora), there may not have been a better way to present this material, but it's still a little disappointing.

Oh, but what a minor quibble! Reunion is an outstanding work of fiction, an eminently satisfying climax to the quest that formally started in Shards but that had faint pre-echoes in Dreamtime and, in a way, Kings of the Broken Wheel. Purchase this title with Ascent for the full effect.

Buy it directly from Warp Graphics!

Copyright 2000, D. Aviva Rothschild


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