Genre Is The New Steady-State I: Elf World #1

Posted by on December 15th, 2010 at 6:47 AM

Rob reviews the first of three new alt-genre anthologies: Elf World #1, edited by Francois Vigneault.

Elfworld #1, edited by Francois Vigneault.  The first volume of this anthology was released three years ago, and it was one of the first indy comic fantasy pastiches.  This genre is all the rage these days, but that first volume was wildly uneven.  Some of the entries felt quickly tossed-off, while other cartoonists didn’t seem to quite know whether to do parody, homage, or something entirely within the confines of genre.  Vigneault has relaunched Elfworld as a periodical, albeit one with high production values.  The silkscreened Sammy Harkham cover is eye-catching and distinctive, as are the endpapers and cleverly-designed table of contents.  The decision to go to shorter issues makes sense for a couple of reasons.  First, this gives Vigneault a chance to better curate his anthology; many an anthology has had a bum entry simply because the editor needed to pad it out a bit.  Second, any themed anthology wears out its welcome quickly unless each entry is truly outstanding–and sometimes not even then.  The first Elfworld certainly suffered from a story-to-story sameness.

The issue kicks off with a creepy hunter-and-hunted story by Grant Reynolds that’s very much within the bounds of his typical fare.  The sheer intensity of his style, dominated by gloomy blacks, signals to the reader that this anthology won’t simply be fun-and-games.  That’s followed up by a silly story from Alec Longstreth that couldn’t be any more different.  It has a light line, greyscaling, and a whimsical plotline that follows a familar fairy-tale rhythm.  Ben Costa & J.R. Parks go strictly for some Dungeons & Dragons workplace humor, with the sight gag of a Gelatinous Cube being a sidekick to a skeleton being especially effective.

David Enos’ “The Mute” fills the outsider art quotient, with a quest story that was both entirely sincere yet totally off-kilter.  Enos reminded me of a less-polished Steve Ditko in some places.  Jane Samborski and the Eve Englezos/Josh Moutray team contribute highly-detailed yet whimsical illustrations; the former constructs a detailed taxonomy of dragons’ mating habits while the latter gets in a grisly ogre gag.  Dash Shaw’s story about an orc about to be executed near the end of the issue is a nice bookend to its grim beginning, as his crimes are recounted–and he manages to come up with one more (conceptual) one to cause suffering.  Elfworld is a welcome refinement to what has now become a trend, and a challenge to others to come up to its level of craft, attention and care.

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