Shannara and the Theory of Them   Leave a comment


One of the not-so-good things about being retired is that  you don’t have as much money as you used to. You have more time to be entertained, but entertainment isn’t getting any cheaper.  For me, that means buying less stuff, and finding more at the library.  It means going to fewer movies, and reading more books. Reading more books means reading more grajphic novels. Some of those will be swords and sorcery, since that is my main joy in literature.

Last week as I was looking for things to read, I found THE DARK WRAITH OF SHANNARA by Terry Brooks.  It is published more like a book than a comic–a trade paperback from Ballantine Books selling at $13.95, 199 pages, mostly illustrated by Edwin David.

Once upon a time I was a big fan of Terry Brooks and his Shannara novels. The major criticism of the series was that it was too much like Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.   Elves, Dwarves, and Humans team up to save the world from Dark Forces.  I liked it when Tolkien did it.  I like it still.

This is a straightforward hero story told in comics. It seems to have been written for ten year-olds, but I won’t hold that against it.  The art is by someone named Edwin David.  He’s a fine artist–does a good job of making people and animals look real.  He does both pen and brush-work and uses a lot of washes.  Everything is sort of dark and gray.  I hate to tell you, Terry, but comics really isn’t a medium that does well in shades of gray.  It can be done. It has been done.  But you didn’t do yourself a favor by doing Dark Wraith all in shades of gray.

Jair Ohmsford has inherited the power of the Wishsong–elven magic that allows him to create very real illusions.  He uses it mostly to pretend he’s invisible, but when he gets in a jam where only fighting will get him out alive, he uses it to recreate the illusion of the greatest fighter he ever knew, the Weaponmaster Garret Jax.  Garrett died in THE WISHSONG OF SHANNARA, but it seems like the wishsong when used byJair can create a corporeal Garrett Jax that threatens to come back to life at Jair’s expense.

Having Garret Jax on your side, or being Garret Jax is a good thing.  The Mwellrets, hideous crocodile men with a dark lust for power, would have totally slain Jair, and his sister Brin, and his girlfriend Kimber, and old Cogline the ex-druid if Jair didn’t turn into Garret and carve them all up.  But Jair is troubled by this power–his sister thinks it is wrong for him to become the shade of the Weapon Master.  Even though it was that power that rescued her from the Crocodile Men in the first place, she lays a guilt trip on Jair to keep him from ever using it again. We all know from the start how that is going to wind up.

Weapon Master of Shannara

I enjoyed Dark Wraith of Shannara, even though I think it may be the weakest thing Terry Brooks has ever written.  This really is a comic for ten year olds.  The story has no depth and only a little conflict.  The bad guys are hideously evil, ugly and bad.  The good guys are handsome, brave, and pure.  There’s an implied love story between Jair and Kimber, but he’s too conflicted to really participate in it.  Pure love is well and good, but give me some good old-fashioned lust now and then.  Give me a hero who sweats and bleeds, not one who mopes and makes do with illusions.

If you like Brooks and fantasy, you’ll want to read this comic.  It is a part of his Shannara world and timeline, but it’s not a very important part.  Check it out of the library.


On a totally unrelated note, I’d like to tell you about my theory of  THEM.  I don’t mean the giant ants–I mean elves, dwarves, trolls, ogres, etc.

They aren’t mythical.  They’re real, and they walk among us, and we never notice.  That’s because humanity, as a speicies, is infinitely varied.  Our skin tones range from albino white to ebony black.  Our size can range from gigantic norsemen to African pygmies. Mystics and wizards walk among us all the time.  If it looks like magic, feels like magic, and works like magic, then by Crom, it’s magic, even if there is a scientific explanation.  Whoever told you that science isn’t magic was wrong. That was just a person who doesn’t understand what magic really is. 

Okay, so elves, dwarves, and ogres aren’t common in the human population.  They weren’t common back in the Middle Ages either, but I think they were real. Today, the old dwarven enclaves are gone, and the dwarves walk among us.  I have known some.  They have integrated into society and are just regarded as short people.  The same can be said for elves.  And here’s what I want to tell you.  Why does Terry Brooks write so much about elves in his fantasy?  Because he is one!  I saw him at a library convention once–he was signing books. I was getting autographs.  I saw a man of slight stature with an impish face and pointed ears–not the exaggerated floppy elf ears or comic books, but real human ears that were more pointed then round on top.  When I got up to the table to talk to him, I said, “you’re an Elf, aren’t you?”  He just smiled but didn’t deny it.

So, the Ken St. Andre theory of THEM.  They’re real. They’re out there, a part of our world.  Keep your eyes open, and maybe you’ll see them, too.


Posted September 13, 2010 by atroll in Uncategorized

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