Peaked too soon
For those of you who are Billy Joel fans, you will remember his song, Scenes from an Italian restaurant. In one of his live recorded Q&As, someone asked him about the song and which parts came first. Billy said the first written part was the Ballad of Brenda and Eddie. He explained that Eddie was the kind of guy who had it all in high school, but it quickly went downhill from there. In his way of thinking, Eddie peaked too soon.
The child knight
This is the case of the main character Jason in the whimsical tale by Chris Mancini and Fernando Pinto, Long and far away. In his youth, he was known as Child Knight. At least in the land of Elvenwood. With his magic sword, he was able to help defeat Nexis, the evil witch queen. Thus saving Elvenwood from its clutches and bringing peace and prosperity to the land. The only problem was that it was in Elvenwood and Jason had to come back to the real world. A world where people didn’t believe such stories. In fact, every time he mentioned his adventures (which was a lot), they thought he needed some psychiatric help. His mother including.
The adult jerk
Unfortunately, that only turned him into a cynical, angry old man who became…what’s the word? A major JERK! Just ask the little girl who sells Girl Scout cookies. Only his friends Phil and Marla can tolerate it, and only up to a point. They’ve heard his story from Elvenwood a million times. Which, to their way of thinking, is only 999,990 times too often. These days, Jason runs a comic book store with Phil and Marla as the only employees. This means that in order to maintain their positions, they must listen to Jason’s story over and over again. It could be good, if they believed a word of it.
The comic book shop
That being said, Phil and Marla are okay with working with Jason for now. Phil, because he has no other ambition than to work in a comic book store. Marla because it’s money coming in. However, at least she has dreams. She wants to transform her art by working for a real comic book publisher. Although Jason tells her that she makes her heroine’s breasts too small. Never mind! However, Marla has talked about moving to New York to pursue her dream. Of course, Jason discourages this idea. That would only leave him with Phil and he’s too boring. I’m pretty sure Phil could say the same about Jason. However, despite her rude behavior, Marla secretly loves Jason. If only he wasn’t so self-centered to notice.
Elvenwood come calling
After work is done, Jason returns home, where he still lives with his mother. His bedroom is filled with action figures, as well as the “magic sword” and armor he wore as a child knight. As he looks around and briefly wields the sword, he comes to the conclusion that all those memories are junk. He packs up his sword and armor and throws them in the trash. It is time to move on. But wouldn’t you know, right after he gets rid of the past, it comes back again. Two of his former compatriots from Elvenwood appeared in the real world. They are looking for their saviour, the Child Knight. Sorry boys, you’re about two decades too late. But they are still looking.
The search for the child knight
The first place they come to is Jason’s Comic Book Store. But only Marla and Phil are there. How typical. They ask for Phil the Child Knight. Completely forgetting the story that Jason told many times, he wonders if this is a Dark Horse title? But then they ask for Jason. Marla told them that Jason wasn’t there and would definitely show up around noon. They said they would come back. After they left, Phil and Malva theorized about the origins of these strangers. They dressed as if they belonged to a cult or a cosplay group. Perhaps they were other “special order friends” of Jason. Anyway, they had a brunch to attend.
Help us child knight, you are our only hope
After Marla and Phil left, Todd finally came to the store, at his usual noon. The Elvenwood pair were waiting for him. At first Jason thought Phil and Marla were playing a prank on him or maybe the Renaissance Fair was back in town. But they asked for the Child Knight. Jason looked at the pair but then pulled their hoods down, revealing their faces and pointy ears. He recognized them immediately. Too bad the same cannot be said of them. They asked him again for the Child Knight and he told Ryan and Neela (their names) that he WAS the Child Knight. They stared at him in disbelief for a moment, then commented on how much he had grown. Seventeen years will do that to a human. They accepted him and told him that they needed his help again. Elvenwood is dying.
The sword in the landfill
Ryan and Neela ask Jason if there was a place they could talk privately. He thought for a moment, knowing he shouldn’t leave the comic book store…but he did anyway, taking them to his house. Ok, it’s his mother’s house, but you know what I meant. But before Jason could start hearing from Ryan and Neela, Marla and Phil showed up. Phil looked at the pair and reached out to touch one of their ears. It was no, no! Once Jason made it clear that his friends were fine, they explained that they needed Jason and his magic sword one more time. That’s when Jason had to admit that he dumped him and his armor. If only Ryan and Neela had arrived a day earlier. The sword had to be found. Even if it meant a dive into the trash cans.
However, Jason and his group weren’t the only ones looking for the sword. Queen Nexis had also sent two of her minions to search for the sword. The race was who would claim it, and then if all went well, the battle to save Elvenwood. Will Jason find the hero he once was? Or was he gone forever, trapped in age, cynicism and bitterness forever? What would Jason and his friends be willing to do to save the day? Such is the story of Long and far away.
Beyond the classic adventure of good versus evil and reclaiming self-esteem, Chris Mancini’s Long Ago and Far Away are wrapped in a plethora of geek-inspired nods to almost every taste. genres. If a gathering of friends has ever debated anything in the world of pop culture, Mancini is talking about it. Whether it’s the quality of Marvel’s Agents of Shield (he almost lost me with that one), the films of Zack Snyder, or the wisdom of Alan Moore, Mancini touches on it with the banter that all friends will recognize. Although Jason’s slam against Archie Comics almost got his ass kicked by an 8-year-old. Don’t mess with the people of Riverdale, Jason.
Additionally, references to John Byrne, Jack Kirby, as well as the use of catchphrases like “It’s Clobberin’ Time” find their place and bring smiles into their inclusion. (That one in particular was used in a way that might change how you think about it). But Mancini is also referring to our enslavement to technology and noise that we as a society are used to. All with a nod and a wink.
Artist Fernando Pinto, whose whimsical style fits perfectly with Mancini’s clever sense of humor and the world of Elvenwood, puts it all into practice. Another case of writer and artist merging to make the whole even better than the parts. Especially when the pieces were exceptional on their own. Thankfully, by the included epilogue, we’ll have more to look forward to in the world of Elvenwood. But that’s for you to read…and you definitely should. White Cat Entertainment’Long and far ago by Chris Mancini and Fernando Pinto hits newsstands April 12.
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Senior Writer at GeekVibesNation – I’m a 50-year-old kid from the 70s who admits to being a Star Trek/Star Wars/Comic Book junkie who once dove headfirst over a cliff (ok, that was a small hill) to try and save his Fantastic Four comic from a watery grave. I am married to a lovely woman who is as crazy as I am and the proud parent of an 18 year old boy with autism. My wife and my son are my real heroes.