Well, having read TFQ’s prologue I went back and re-read the entire Original Quest, which was kind of fascinating, really. And since I’m going to talk about the entire OQ I’ll just put this behind a cut and spare the uninterested. :)
First off, on a production level, I still think the Starblaze Donning editions’ coloring is massively better than the Father Tree Press versions, and find it odd that the Pinis dislike the Starblaze colors so much, particularly given the soft rich palette of the work Wendy has done as original colors. Maybe the Starblaze books weren’t vibrant enough, I don’t know, but to me the Father Tree colors are just *ugly*. They talked somewhere about them being as they imagined, like animation cels, and I can see what they’re talking about but igh. I read the FTP versions because they’re the ones with the Marvel Epic pages worked in (where appropriate) and I wanted that effect, but man, I know Dark Horse is talking about doing graphic novels of the original black and white issues, which would be awesome, but I wish they’d do pretty color ones too.
Fire & Flight, the first book, is really kind of a hot mess. A lot of clunky storytelling that I totally didn’t notice at age 12 or up through age 25 or whatever I was when I last read it. A lot of stuff that hadn’t yet been clearly defined–the use of sending, in particular, was a hash. But overall it was kind of like first-season TV: if it looks good at the time, the fact that it’s kind of embarrassing after they’ve got their legs under them is okay.
But oh! Here’s a major thing that changed: Leetah’s healing exhausted her the first couple times we saw her use it, even when she was doing something minor (healing a villager who strained himself carrying heavy weights, as opposed to healing half-dead Redlance)! That was dropped like a hot potato by the 4th issue. :)
Speaking of Leetah, I still loathed her upon introduction to her. I mean, I’ve gotten used to her over the decades, but it was like meeting her for the first time: I just Did Not Like Her At All. And it’s not because I’ve got a thing for Cutter, because he’s about eighth on my list of Hot Wolfriders, falling somewhere well after Nightfall. I just didn’t like her, then or now.
Surprisingly, I didn’t like Strongbow nearly as much as I did back in the day either. I’m certain this says something about my teenage psyche, but I think I’ll try really hard not to go think about that too much. :) Treestump seems to have stepped way up into favorites now.
The first few issues seemed to have a little more of traditional gender roles in place–I didn’t really get the sense of Nightfall as one of the warriors until a bit later in the story; I think she’d been left behind in the Madcoil fight and things like that. And there’s a bit in the Sun Village where Dewshine’s going off to help catch zwoots where Leetah says “Its not a maiden’s place,” which is more provincial than I remember Sorrow’s End being, although that actually turns out to be fairly consistent.
Oh. For those of you who’ve read the Final Quest prologue–Ruffel, although never named, is one of Skywise’s three oft-seen lovemates. Nice consistency, there. Also, Ahdri’s hair was a lot better in the early days than now. :)
The art improves visibly from issue to issue, with real leveling up seeming to happen between GNs (though that’s probably partly psychological due to me changing physical books from one to the next). By the start of Forbidden Grove pretty well all the craggy roughness is gone and it’s really looking like ElfQuest.
Forbidden Grove is all about character development. I mean, plenty of things happen in it, but none of it (even Skywise’s near-fatal fall) is as Big Set Piece Adventure the way the fire, the battle with Winnowill, or the Quest’s End is.
In fact, although obviously a huge amount happens in both Forbidden Grove and Captives of Blue Mountain, and much of it is danger-oriented, in an all-at-once re-read the whole story really is driving hard toward Quest’s End which caps it and feels vastly more weighted than anything before. Part of that is probably because I *know* the story, so the middle bits aren’t news, but I was surprised at how much emotional weight landed on the quest’s end for me.
…actually, part of it is also probably that I’m less enamoured with Strongbow, too, and since one of Captives‘ main plot threads is the Strongbow one, that’s got to have changed my reading. I was no more or less taken with Dewshine and Tyldak’s story than previously, and–and you know, actually, you know what I wanted now?
I wanted the showdown between Winnowill and Leetah more than almost anything else. One where Winnowill doesn’t step off the ledge (which I had forgotten: I was honestly trying to remember, leading up to that, how it was that Winnowill ended up *not* being healed, and I was shocked at the answer!), or where, I don’t know, the bloody Wolfriders all go RUNNING DOWN THE STAIRS TO SNAG HER AGAIN, because, you know, people who have just taken hundred-foot-falls, even healers, do not just get up and walk away from that. (Particularly since it seems to me that Winnowill’s actual healing powers are…weakened? by her turn to the dark side: in the event that Leetah had taken that fall, I don’t see her lying in a huddle, still healing, while Two-Edge tormented her. I think she could’ve healed herself faster than Winnowill apparently was. Anyway.)
The point is, I don’t remember having any such concern back in the day. As far as I can tell, I must’ve figured plunging off the side of a ledge was just deserts for Winnowill, whereas now I think actual healing would have been a *far crueller* fate. :)
Another thing I’d pretty well forgotten was Voll’s death. They’re flying toward the Go-Backs’ mountains and I’m going “wait, what, why doesn’t this work? what–OH SHIT HE DIES,” which came about a page and a half before he died. Augh! Also, I’m not certain if that spear went right through his heart or not. It didn’t *quite* look like it to me, and if not, the Gliders seizing him and flying off in a panic was really stupid, because Leetah was right there. Which is also something I don’t remember thinking back in the day.
Quest’s End is freaking brutal, and I loved it more than I remember, probably because I have a far greater appreciation of brutal than I did as a tender young thing. But you know what the best bit of re-reading it was? The best part was that I’d forgotten about Rayek’s return. I forgot right up until he came into the room to help Leetah heal Cutter, and I got this pure visceral shock of joy as it came back to me. It was *wonderful*. When Leetah finally discovered who was helping her, I actually got teary. In the end, that was actually the most powerful moment in the whole story for me.
And Ekuar, oh, I’d forgotten him too, and I don’t know how I could have forgotten such a sweet character. I remembered Vaya’s story, I remembered One-Eye’s and Leetah’s, I remembered and profoundly loved Treestump and Clearbrook’s. I did *not* remember how Redlance and the cubs survived the troll attack on the Go-Back lodge. I knew they had, and I remembered the soulname-exchange aftermath, but when that scene was set into motion I was seriously going how the hell are they going to survive this?!, which is quite a feat.
I don’t know if I ever had sympathy for Two-Edge, but I have the sense I did. It’s faded, at least in terms of his game. I think when I was younger perhaps the whole, um. Cosmic angst. Of pitting half his blood against the other half in a literal sense might have appealed to me more than it does now. Now it just seems like such a senseless, horrible waste of so many lives.
And then the end cap; the true story of the High Ones, earned through such high price: totally worth it in storytelling terms. This was what they really began by wondering, and I still think it’s a beautiful finale to the story. I was eager to re-read it, to see if it brought anything new to light (it didn’t, but I’ve pored over that story a huge amount), and–well, there at the end Strongbow pretty well won me back again, even if he’s an idiot. :)