It’s Christmas time so reviewing Elf should come as a surprise to no one, but if you’re expecting the kid-friendly exploits of Buddy in NYC, turn back now. Collecting four years worth of comic strips posted online, Elf Book 1 is a delightfully absurd take on ye olde fantasy genre we’ve come to appreciate from the likes of Eragon, Lord of the Rings, and Game of Thrones. However this is probably most akin to a modern, comic interpretation of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, which I was a huge fan of in my teenage years. What I thought would be a short collection actually tops out at 240 pages, which is more than enough to satisfy my desire for battle scenes, full frontal nudity, and humor both current and archaic.
The basic premise follows three main characters: Pieter the Idle, a scraggly older man with a potency for potions and getting into trouble; Black Feather, a warrior elf whose prowess in battle is the breast, er best; and Clarence the Wombat, who provides comic relief, combat assistance, and legal counsel. It is difficult to sum up the book’s plot as a whole since there really isn’t one. Instead, Elf is a combination of single page comic strips, short loosely collected ideas following a general theme, and two actual story arcs that are more or less linear in nature. Certain elements do appear in all these, from fantastic creatures to royal hierarchy to a knack for weaving in how much of joke these stories really are. There’s a murder trail (after extensive medieval torture), an elvish orgy, and a misunderstood soothsayer. Adult language is a given throughout and creates some interesting moments all by itself. In a nutshell, there are all sorts of interesting tidbits for lovers of lore and nerds galore.
The reader can easily tell the journey the creator Songgu Kwon goes on while developing the series, as the comics transition from single funnies to whole arcs of story. This is a double-edged sword though; on the one hand, we get plenty of variety in content and format, but on the other it is difficult at times to discern how progressing pages relate to one another. I’d be enjoying the general story when a page comes out of nowhere and throws off my groove before resuming the previously scheduled entertainment. It keeps the reader on their toes, which is vital for a concept like this. Kwon throws in all sorts of modern references and personal touches that I really enjoyed. Among them were aliens playing a D&D-esque RPG, a pair of characters named Molder and Skuli, the appearance of Sesame Street character “Berht”, a video game portrayal of a monster battle, and the artist himself appearing to say that drawing every character riding a unicorn would be too much work.
Speaking of artwork, this has some things I’d never thought I would ever see. Most of which involves nudity or sexuality in some way. Because this is a single-creator project, Kwon had free rein to do whatever he wanted! And trust me, he did. In addition to Black Feather going topless on multiple occasions, we see all sorts of creatures naked, including but not limited to: ogres, trees, elves, giants dwarves, and Clarence the Wombat. There is a man with has a literal dick on his head, and another with boobs in the place of horns. While graphic genitalia or pornography is not included, there is sex and every nude female has adequate bush, including the tree in a more literal sense. There is also some intense violence, with beheadings, mutilation, and the torture I mentioned before. One of my favorite moments was when Black Feather castrate’s her opponent and there is a little cartoon of a penis and testicle waving goodbye to the other testicle as he goes to the afterlife. High brow stuff, I’ll tell ya. It’s mostly in black and white, but this is a one man show and a web comic to boot, so I’m totally cool with it considering that the content was impressive, even lacking color.
To sum it all up, this was a hoot to read. Some may find it juvenile and crass and blasphemous to Tolkien’s achievements, and you know what? They’d be right! It’s brilliant yet simple, taking what you love and turning it into a mockery. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then Elf Book 1 accomplishes something akin to that, but makes it topless and added a clown nose.
Medieval Madness, 4 out of 5 Stars
Writer/Artist: Songgu Kwon
You can purchase a copy HERE