Elk’s Run had an interesting publishing history that I was able to experience firsthand (more or less) as a consumer. In…lemme see…2005 or 2006 I was in a comic book store, looking at the independent publishers’ rack (probably looking for Brian Pulido’s Nightmare on Elm Street books for Avatar, come to think of it). My eye landed on Darwyn Cooke’s cover for the Bumper Edition of Elk’s Run; collecting issues #1 through #3, it had a slightly-tougher softcover (think of the recent DC Comics Presents collections for an idea), and the last few pages contained a mini-lesson on Noel Tuazon’s art and Scott A. Keating’s colouring (a combo I originally wasn’t crazy about but then grew to love). Cooke’s cover for the Bumper Edition wasn’t too far off from regular cover artist Datsun Tran’s work:
Now that’s a cover! And going against conventional wisdom (not judging a something by its something or other…I forget), I picked up Elk’s Run without only the briefest of flip-throughs. The story had a compelling hook: set in Elk’s Ridge, West Virginia, a town cut off from the rest of the world so that its adult population can raise their kids free from the corrupting influence of modern society. You can imagine how well that turns out; before you can say Lord of the Flies, the population is taking it upon themselves to dole out death sentences to friends and neighbours after a botched escape attempt results in a tragic accident.
The action is told through the eyes of a group of Elk’s Ridge kids, who mostly resent their parents for their imposed isolation, and a few adults. And there’s some stuff about the war that’s meant to show how a bunch of shell-shocked PTSD veterans would be motivated to willfully cut themselves from the rest of the planet.
After purchasing the Bumper Edition, I found the floppy of issue #4, and spent a number of months fruitlessly searching for #5. Eons later, I walked into a different comic book store and the clerk said to me: “You looking for anything in particular?”
I said, “Elk’s Run?”
He looked at me with a blank expression. “Do you know who publishes it?”
I said, surprised I could even remember the publisher’s name since I’d never read anything else by them, “Speakeasy?”
He frowned. “Speakeasy went out of business months ago.”
So no more Elk’s Run, I guess. I’d experience a similar heartbreak with Fell within a couple years.
And then at some point in 2007 or 2008 I was on Amazon looking for something unrelated and stumbled upon the trade for Elk’s Run. It contained all the issues I already owned…and the previously-unpublished #5, #6, #7, and #8! Hooray! I was finally able to find out how the damned story ended (not well, or really well depending on how you look at it). The only downside of the trade being the intro by Moon Knight writer Charlie Huston, which, and I’m more than willing to admit I might not “get” Huston’s style, but it comes off as pseudo-Chuck Palahniuk minimalist-y and weirdly macho (especially in light of the book it’s introducing).
A couple years later I found the floppies of #1, #2, and #3 in the dollar bin of a comic book store in Vancouver, thinking I was getting away with something and fearing the clerk would look at what I was buying and say, “Hey, wait a minute! How did those get in there?!” (he’d said something similar when I picked up some issues of Bone that had landed – allegedly by mistake – in the $0.25 bin). So I now have all Elk’s Run-related material it’s possible to buy (far as I know).
I can see Elk’s Run not being everybody’s cup of tea, but if you like a relaxed, subtle backwoods tale of war-induced paranoia, suffocating small-town adolescence, or stories that emphasize character over action and unfold at their own pace, this might be the book for you.