"Wooo! Prickles!" Heh. Just one disadvantage of dressing 'jungle casual' I guess...(And the Dachshund said to the St. Bernard, "Your PAWS are frozen?!")
OK, let's talk serious for a bit. Barry, you sneaky bastard... in Aramak you first created one of the nastiest, slimiest villains in the whole EQ canon - I just couldn't wait to see the creep get what was coming to him. And then slowly but surely, traces of humanity started to appear, and it began to seem that just maybe he wasn't quite such a slimeball after all...
Marty Kuhn ("Bloodlines" NB #24) has already pointed out how Aramak's world crumbled in #23. And then #24... beaten and ragged, his spirit totally crushed, he staggers into the clearing, captivated by the beauty of the "sky spirit", and ...wallop. So what am I feeling sorry for? The creep got what was coming to him, didn't he? And finally all his broken dreams, his longing for immortality, for the spirit's favor, gone... all ironically summed up in Dart's epitaph: "They all die, sooner or later." (And wasn't that exactly what Winnowill once said too?) Brilliant.
Aramak was not a nice man. He committed untold crimes against humanity (and occasionally, elfkind) in order to uphold his corrupt regime. But for all that, he did have a human(e) side and you made damn sure we felt some remorse at his death. Mr. Blair, you're a genius and I hate you very much.
Two more points relating to Aramak's death, apart from the fact that Barry manages to portray its horrific violence without ever becoming graphic:
Firstly it makes "good human" Pei-lar seem less sympathetic, certainly in Suntop's eyes; but we've seen how even the most levelheaded of the elves (let alone humans), namely Clearbrook, can be driven to extremes by rage and grief (Book 4), and who knows what Aramak might have done to Pei-lar in the past?
Secondly, what effect will seeing this kind of violence have on Jethel? We've already seen what a sensitive kid he is. Like I said, he's always wanted to be a brave warrior, but at this rate he could end up with major emotional problems. I hope not, I like him.
Then again, you've also got Ahn-lai ("Bluething", remember?) witnessing a battle on page 16, and at least five human slaves watching the guard's execution on page 23... assuming they survive the current crisis, none of these kids are going to have very pleasant dreams for sometime.
By swallowing her stone voluntarily Aramak's consort... ex-consort... has proven herself to be quickwitted and incredibly courageous-qualities which no doubt intrigue, or at the very least amuse Door. Come to think of it, she intrigues me too. She has the potential to become a very interesting character. Now if only Barry would give her name!
Naming 'minor' characters doesn't seem to be Barry's strong suit. I'd always assumed it was a fairly basic rule of comic storytelling to reestablish every prominent character's name in every issue, yet there are quite a few recurring character's in the "Forevergreen" who've either been named only once (e.g. Ahn-lai, Kin-chi, Quaila, Auroa) or not at all to date. It's potentially confusing and a bit frustrating. Even Willowsnap doesn't get a namecheck in #24!
And seeing as I'm currently in Quibble Mode, where did Ahn-lai/Bluething get his magic body paint? On page 2 and 3 he's blue, but after we rediscover him on page 8 he's turned green. (although Willowsnap still calls him Bluething). Color me confused. (Not as confused as we, until we found out that minor changes in paper stock - even from the same lot - can cause a color shift in the dyes used. This can happen while the page is in transit to the separator. We're watching out for that - RP)
Anything else? Um, yes. Chot's still as much of a whiner as ever, but at least now he's got a chance to prove himself in battle. Doing what he does best, as another comic-book hero might also describe... Though I've found it a bit hard to reconcile the lazy, scrounging Chot with the elf who single-handedly WALKED all the way from the Desert to the Frozen Mountains and never once complained of the hardships he encountered in route. You figure him out.
<<street address removed from archive>>
I am slightly disappointed that you let Pei-lar kill Aramak. That was the easy way. The easy way for you as writers, that is. It would have been much more interesting to see how Pei-lar and Aramak handle their problems and become allies against Door. You killed off a very interesting character who could have become important for the future storyline. But you chose to do different. The moral: Always expect the unexpected. I should and could have foreseen that Aramak had to die by the hands of Pei-lar because that's what a typical, predictable human would do in a case like that. It (almost) always is the same. The bad guy realizes he's bad, experiences some kind of catharsis, but before he can do anything he is killed off. I don't know why but that's just the way it has happened in films, books and now in Elfquest, too (actually, I was reminded of Deep Space Nine's First Season episode 'Duet' where the 'bad' Cardassian - after pouring out his heart and relieving his soul - had unavoidably to be killed by a 'good' Bajoran. And yet, the funny thing is that this Cardassian was very sensitive inside).
Doing some writing myself I think I can understand why Aramak had to die. There are several reasons. First: the 'obligatory' death of the bad guy-turned-good to show the bad side of the 'good' gal - to piss off the reader (I think we got the message now: Never judge a thing by the looks of it).
Second: Too many characters make the plot confusing, the writer can't pay attention to and think of all them all the time. Therefore you concentrate on one really bad guy. And, boy, Door has become really frightening and determined and self-confident. As far as I am concerned you did the right thing in eliminating Aramak before he could degenerate to a minor, unimportant character.
Finally, I have to praise Barry, he's getting better and better. The faces of the various characters do not resemble each other so much any more, they've become individual and expressive.
Live long and prosper -
<<street address removed from archive>>
By the way, all you Trekkies or Trekkers who thought that phrase originated with Mr. Spock: I found a coffee tin from 1928 that had the same sentiment lithographed on it. Proof we've been visited? Hmmm. Keep those good thoughts coming and see you in 45! - RP