|Elfquest: Wavedancers. Written by Richard Pini, Vickie Murphy, and Kathryn Bolinger. Illustrated by Steve Blevins, Craig Taillefer, and Wendi Strang-Frost. Poughkeepsie, NY: Warp Graphics, 2000. 1v. (unpaged). (Elfquest Reader's Collection, Book 16). $12.95. ISBN 0-936861-71-1.|
A long way away, in the land of the Forevergreen, the elf Wavecatcher (male) has been residing, the last of a small party of Wavedancers that went exploring and was largely wiped out by humans. Wavecatcher is searching for others of his kind, especially a female elf that he glimpsed on land many years ago. And in still another place, Ardan Djarum, a merchant descended from Grohmul Djun, plots destruction on the sea-elves for killing his son, who was on one of the vessels Surge destroyed.
The Wavedancers continue to hold council, debating what to do. Snakeskin wants to reshape the coral surrounding their home to be a spiky trap that will destroy ships as they approach, but Surge points out that the humans will continue to send ships regardless. Reluctantly Snakeskin decides to send a search party out for a new place to live, though the memory of the lost party is still strong. But for now they just sit around and talk, with the chief and Surge trying to understand one another again. Surge recognizes that Snakeskin is a budding healer and injures himself to force his son's powers to the fore.
(Elsewhere, Wavecatcher approaches the humans in the Forevergreen to ask about other spirits, while Ardan Djarum gloats over a sinister substance guaranteed to kill elves.)
A day later, a scouting party is sent to make sure the elves have a clear path through the sea. One of the party, Darshek, picks up a ring from the sunken human ship before continuing on. Later, he spies Ardan Djarum's ships and sends a dolphin back with a mental picture, then sneaks aboard one of the ships. He is promptly captured, and Djarum and his pet alchemist, Bran Porak, try some of that evil substance (a parasite) on him. The Djarum screams at poor Darshek about where his people are and abuses him for wearing his son's ring, but Darshek doesn't understand him and just lies there in increasing misery.
The other Wavedancers are worried about him, of course, and send out search parties. Instead of Darshek, however, they find a huge kill of fish that died oddly, without any sign of poison or violence. The searchers return to the others and hold council again, deciding to remain until they locate Darshek
(Back in the Forevergreen, Wavecatcher finds the humans friendly but of little use in his search for more elves. He catches sight of the four-fingered hand statue and decides to investigate. Who does he encounter but Windkin, who is intrigued by but distrustful of the strange sea-elf. And Ardan Djarum is frustrated that Darshek hasn't died yet; he thinks of his dead wife, whom he killed accidentally though he blames her death on the elves because he hit her while she was insisting that the "demons" were not evil.)
The humans start dropping explosives in the sea. From the fish-kill, Djarum plucks a dead dolphin and threatens Darshek with the destruction of more if he doesn't tell the merchant where the other elves are. Of course, Darshek isn't able to understand or answer the man. The merchant's sailors do, however, and they're getting more and more leery of the insanely driven man. And when he tells Bran Porak that he intends to dump his huge supply of the parasite into the sea, Bran realizes that the man's thirst for vengeance could very well destroy the seas themselves....
(And in the Forevergreen, Windkin and Wavecatcher discover a female elf in the care of some humans. She doesn't realizes she's anything but a spirit and is happy to discover others of her kind.)
1. Too many new characters, and too many with speaking parts. The reason the original tribe of Wolfriders works so well on first acquaintance is that the focus is always on Cutter, most of the others don't say much for a while, and the characters are all distinct individuals. There is no mistaking Treestump for Pike, for example, either visually or personality-wise. But the Wavedancers are too similar to one another in both these qualities, making it impossible to keep track of all these people. (The story improves considerably when only one elf is central to the plot, as when Darshek is on Ardan Djarum's ship.) Also, no single elf is the focus for the majority of the goings-on, so that we never have a central personality to cling to. At various times one expects Spine, Snakeskin, Darshek, or Wavecatcher to be the "anchor character," but none of them dominates the book. And, frankly, the elves are so bland that it's hard to care for any of them. The most vivid sympathetic personality in the book is the human alchemist Bran Porak. And Ardan Djarum is very one-dimensional, little more than a wild-eyed maniac.
2. Too many plot threads. Much as I like the Forevergreen setting, I think that thread could easily have been excised from the book, or at least introduced after the main action had been resolved.
3. Not a lot goes on. The Wavedancers spend a lot of time talking to one another and debating the best way to handle their troubles. The humans spend a lot of time either ranting (Ardan Djarum) or being wary of the ranting. I think part of the problem is that when action needed to be taken, Cutter exerted his authority and took it, minimizing "council time," but Snakeskin doesn't have that "luxury."
4. Varying art. While all of the sections are well drawn, the differences in the way the characters are depicted make it even harder to tell one elf from another. Heck, even in the Forevergreen section when Windkin was introduced, I didn't realize it was him until he said his name.
A disappointing work, easily the weakest in the Elfquest canon. Not an embarrassment by any means, but well below the Pinis' usual standards.
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