Written, drawn, lettered and coloured by James Stokoe
Published by Image Comics
Finding myself with strong urges to blast away the lingering odour of superheroes, I had to choose the most pungent book in my collection, a book so malodorous it leaves a mark, the riotous, violent radness that is Orc Stain.
For millennia the orcs have swarmed all over the globe but their failure to unite under a single leader has saved the world from domination. Now from deep in the south come rumblings of a mighty chieftain know as the Orctzar and the stain of orcdom begins to spread northward.
We can’t go far in this world with out talking about the gronch, luckily for us Mr Stokoe has provided us with a handy infographic.
That’s right, this is a whole culture based on using dicks as currency. If that is not to your liking then this is not the book for you, and the love nymphs haven’t even shown up yet. Definitely not for kids, this is an absurdly fun and adventurous ride for the grown ups.
Despite their unashamed savagery and penchant for genitalia slicing, these Orcs are not without a code of sorts, if a brutal one. It’s the Poxa Gronca, ‘an eye for an eye, a gronch for a gronch’ and the enactment of this vendetta helps drive our story through the Northlands.
For in the North is where we meet out nameless hero, nameless due to the fact that only the nastiest of Orcs are named after their deaths. Fortunately for us his lack of an eyeball lends itself to a handle. One-Eye is a thief who uses his hammer to help him crack locks but also to crack skulls. Much like a Kung-Fu pressure point fighter he uses his hammer to Dim Mak anything be it orc, beast or structure.
Sadly for One-Eye, the Orctzar is searching for all orcs who are missing an eye, as one of them will help him unlock the God Organ and through that to conquer the world. To do this he sends out his tribe of dark orc assassins called the Shakatuu. Immediately they are my favourites, these Orcs with massive beards that cover their entire bodies, and their leader, a short, stump of a beard called Boss Beard Sersa. I would be first in line to sign up for a world where your fighting prowess is measured by your ability to grow a beard.
Hard to believe I have rambled this long without bringing up the art, because it is the first thing that strikes you, and then never lets up. The art is epic. From massive battles, strange swamps and huge veiny creatures this is a very unique looking book. Everything is organic, feathery and scaly. The high level of detail in the art is shown off in many of the huge panels and splash pages which is a little confusing to start. But once Stokoe gets round to using panels and framing his story through them things get much clearer. And sometimes part of the fun of reading comics can be poring over a page and working out step-by-step what is actually going down.
While there are huge battle scenes this is not your typical fantasy world. It’s both far more raw and more cute than that stereotype. Lizards are used as guns, mortar shells are like clams but when the gore hits there are fluids gushing everywhere. The moments of grotesque ‘horror’ are balanced by hilarity.
The crafty dialogue of the Orcs reminds me of a bunch of barely grown schoolboys, the slang is loose and hip-hoppy and I love how the Shaakatu are shown as speaking with kanji like symbols. It can be very wordy, some of these characters like to chat, but when the story moves to an action scene the dialogue drops away and we get dynamic motion and weird sound effects.
Should I buy it? If you are not afraid of Orcs, gronches or beards this book is a must buy. Orc Stain is fun-filled comic books, packed with ideas and adventure and it never once fails to be interesting. James Stokoe has that same love for the comics that his homeboy Brandon Graham does and it leaps off every page. He is just wrapping up a Godzilla book for IDW that I am fascinated to read when it is collected.
Next time: Image keep coming up with the goods. Next will be Glory by Joe Keatinge and Ross Campbell. An alternate universe Wonder Woman done right, with a lead character that actually does look like she can bench press a tank.