I think what you fell victim to was some of the same problem I had back when I collected Superman comics in the 90s when those issues were printed: multiple story lines being printed at the same time. The had part is that when they were printed, Shards had one story line (Cutter's group), hidden years and wild hunt had others, and so on, printed "interleaved" with each other (I wasnt reading then at the time, I had to catch up with graphic novels and digital comics), so that one series would have one set of events, and another series would have a different set of events happening at the same time. Reading Shards first might help, but it still may have some split story (not as much, if I remember right). All of these issues come together into Elf Quest 2, which I still havent pieced together and read all the way through as its more chaotic for me. I believe the individual stories were split out into their own sets in DEQ, which can help but may also make it more confusing here and there. Anyway, I dont know what to tell you to make it easier, but thats whats going on. Not an easy solution to piece it back the way it was presented when it origionally released and the internet as a medium for reading comics wasnt even a common idea.