|Elfquest: Forevergreen. Written by Barry Blair and Wendy and Richard Pini. Illustrated by Barry Blair and Colin Chan. Poughkeepsie, NY: Warp Graphics, 1999. 1v. (unpaged). (Elfquest Reader's Collection, Book 15). $12.95 ISBN 0-936861-64-9.|
NOTE: This book collects the Elfquest: New Blood issues 11-19.
Under cover of dust, the Go-Backs arrive. Swiftly, one kills Shushen, Dart's dear friend. They expect no resistance, so are caught completely by surprise when Dart launches himself at them. A general, confused melee breaks out. Kahvi, with the little palace in her possession, emerges from a hut to see Dart kill a Go-Back. At first furious at him, she turns her fury on Zey, the leader of the Go-Backs, who had believed her dead and taken her place as chief. She kills him--the last act of the war, as it turns out. Disgusted by how the Go-Backs have degenerated in her absence, she returns the little palace and leads her people away, except for those so injured that they have to be cocooned.
Because of the volcano and the drought, the Sun Village is forced underground. Dart and his companions hunt for scarce game while most of the villagers are cocooned to prevent starvation. At last Ahdri's rock-shaping powers fully bloom, and she is able to help dig new underground chambers and search for water. The village eventually heals, returning to days of flood and flower--but Dart, sickened by the killing he did, can only cocoon himself. He comes out for a few years when he Recognizes Serrin through the wrapstuff and fathers a boy, but eventually he returns to his place of solitude.
Thousands of years later, he is released again, this time by Mender. A new problem has arisen: humans have started to come close to the Sun Village, despite the gigantic rocks placed around it by Ahdri. At the same time, the Palace has returned and the Wolfriders have awakened. All those injured in the war and cocooned are restored by the combined healing powers of Leetah and Mender, including the obnoxious Go-Back Chot. Suntop returns to have Savah as his teacher.
One day, Suntop gets a brief, tantalizing vision of a wondrous jungle. Who sent the vision, and why? Windkin recognizes the jungle as a place he dubbed the "Forevergreen" when he was doing long-range scouting during the time of drought. He hadn't explored it before, but now he wants to. Everyone does, but their method of travel, the Palace, is currently in many pieces. So, wearing wings made of wrapstuff that will help him fly, Windkin immediately takes off by himself for the Forevergreen. Dart vows to follow him in three eights of days if he doesn't return.
And he doesn't, because when he gets there, he discovers a human civilization that is apparently trying to emulate elves. Spotted, he tries to flee but is zapped with knockout powder. He awakens tied to a pillar. The Attained Father Aramek wants to use Windkin as proof that Aramek's various atrocities--human sacrifice, mutilation, etc.--are the will of the High Ones. Later, caged inside the temple, Windkin meets an ancient Glider, the rock-shaper Door, one of the few Gliders to have survived the destruction of Blue Mountain. Given over to the protection of the Hoan-G'tay-Sho (now called the Hungtsho) at the end of The Secret of Two-Edge, he is their pet High One. He's also so out of it that he can do little but mumble to Windkin about how bad things are. Several of the humans also explain to Windkin how they hate Aramek. He pledges to help them. But then, in a confrontation with Aramek, the Attained Father angrily and tearfully explains how badly he and his people want to be elves. Windkin decides to stay and help the Hungtsho get over their obsession with elves.
Meanwhile, Suntop has picked up on Windkin's distress, and a small rescue party embarks on the journey to the Forevergreen--Suntop, Dart, Kimo, Dodia, Jethel, Chot, Shenshen, and Yun. They must cross the Vastdeep Water, which they almost do; as they spy land, their craft is swamped, and they are separated, washing up in various places around the beach. Dart, Kimo, and Yun encounter one another; the others join together elsewhere. Unfortunately, the others are also captured by a band of humans, the arch-rivals of Aramek, and scheduled for execution. And speaking of humans, a desert tribe is about to be prodded into action against the Sun Village. In earlier forays they were frightened off, but they are determined to find a trade route through the mountains--despite the "demons."
In general, the story is intriguing and page-turning; I look forward to seeing what happens in every critical situation, especially as (according to Reunion) the elves end up being rescued from a burning, destroyed Hungtsho city. What happens to bring it to that condition? What is Door's fate? What happens to the Sun Villagers?
Some of the characterizations are a bit peculiar. Suntop tends to act younger than his age, and though admittedly Ember has had to grow up much faster than her brother, he seems surprisingly immature compared to her. Shenshen, who was flighty and enjoyed "romps" but was also tender and sensitive in earlier books, has become a real nag in this one; she shepherds Suntop around and talks incessantly. I'm waiting for her dream-prophecy about coming into her own to come true, but somehow, I can't see it happening to her while she acts like this. And most of the humans are fairly generic.
Forevergreen is weakest in the first few chapters because it tries to have too much happen at one time, and because the "fog of war and volcano" interferes with the art. I'm still trying to figure out how Kahvi killed Zey; she appeared to have stuck her sword through her own stomach to kill him (he was right behind her), but she didn't appear to have suffered any discomfort from doing so, so I'm not sure exactly what she did. Indeed, I thought she'd killed both him and herself; the art was that muddy. Also, the war didn't seem to have much in the way of lasting effect on the Sun Villagers (besides Dart, of course) or any of the other elves who did any killing. And the whole bit where Dart fathers a child--what was that for? Unless the boy (Bowki) shows up later, he seems to have no real role in the story except to make Dart smile for a time. But the Pinis are very good at tying up loose ends, so I'll assume there was a purpose to Bowki's creation.
I've never been a big Barry Blair fan, but I found his art in this book quite adequate (except as mentioned above), though he always seemed to draw Savah with her mouth open and her eyes slightly lopsided, and why does Aramek's bodyguard look like a cross between Beast and Wolverine from X-Men? But he and Chan had some very nice moments: the scene of Windkin, accompanied by birds, as he glides toward the Forevergreen; the utterly detached look on Door's face; the scenes when Suntop is in a kind of communion with the jungle.
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