(This Stripped column originally appeared in the October 16-23, 1997, Long Island Voice. Click on the artwork for a larger image.)
by Beth Hannan Rimmels
How to describe Poison Elves? The best and most ass-kickin fantasy story youve ever read? The antithesis of "tra-la-la, dancing through the forest, goodness and light" elf stories? The adventures of the meanest, deadliest, most ruthless assassin youll ever care about? Thats a start.
Originally, writer/artist Drew Hayes self published it under the name I, Lusiphur in a magazine-size format with hand-done covers. By issue eight, he changed the name to Poison Elves because he was sick of being asked if he was a Satanist. He survived being dropped by Diamond Distribution (when it was simply huge and not a monopoly). By issue 11, he shrank it down to comic-book size. All the while, orders were growing and eventually he cut a deal with Sirius so that he retains the rights, but it handles distribution and printing. The book started over at number one with a fresh storyline and is still to growing in audience size and quality.
Oh, I still havent described the story, have I? Its hard to do. I cant put a high-concept, quickee tag on it like "Casablanca in space" because I never, ever know where its going. Even when I think Im sure, Drew and Lusiphur surprise me thats why I adore Poison Elves.
Poison Elves takes place in the world of Amrahlynn (Hey Drew, one complaint: Could you please do a pronunciation guide sometime?). According to a text piece in first two Sirius issues, the Unholy created Trolls to annihilate all life. The Holy (i.e., God), angered by this, cast one-third of the Trolls into a bottomless pit that burned hotter than a thousand suns. The remaining Trolls, undeterred, leveled their way across the world toward the pit to free their brethren. They were met by Elves, who fought the Trolls back and eventually created seven steps (a system of connected fortresses) to "guard the remaining life on Amrahlynn with their own." What happened to the Trolls in the pit? They had become Elves, "the evil burnt out of them But the question has been raised, can any fire burn the evil forged by the Unholy himself completely?"
Not a typical fantasy story. Nor is Lusiphur, the protagonist, a typical character. The first line of the first issue by Sirius describes him well: "Lusiphur has been dead roughly a year now, but hes still actively wanted by authorities."
Lusiphur can be a total bastard, but the love hes shown for Cassandra is genuine. He can be an insensitive twit, but theres more to him than he likes to show. Hes totally deadly and each issue leaves you dying for the next.
The current storyline, "Sanctuary," deals with Luse, as hes called, in the employ of two brothers who run both an assassins and a thieves guild out of a dimensional pocket. The story had been building for about 20 issues when I heard that #25 would be a good jumping-on point for new readers despite the fact that the "Sanctuary" plot wasnt finished. I was extremely skeptical. Drew made me eat crow again.
Issue 25, which should still be in stores, gets everyone up to speed and introduces all the key characters without one drop of obvious exposition. Plus, even though the cover gives away a major development, Drew still managed to shock the hell out of me when I finally got to that scene. My hearts still bleeding for Luse over it.
And make sure you read the indicia. Drew changes it regularly and its always funny. His version of the copyright violation warning one month included "Violators are wimps. Get your own ideas or go to work for Marvel leave mine alone."
The artwork is great and once you learn his style, youll never mistake it for anyone elses. Drew even manages to mix straight text pieces with the standard comic book format and it works beautifully. Drew described himself once as "a storyteller who happens to use the medium of comics to tell the story, but will not be limited by them." Amen, Drew.
Column © 1997 Long Island Voice. Artwork © 1997 Drew Hayes.