Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Orc Stain, Volume 1 by James Stokoe Review


Orc Stain is set in a world run by Orcs where they’re as savage and stupid and conflict-driven as they’re portrayed in other media. Broadly the story is this one orc chieftain, the Orctzar, has risen to power and is uniting the other clans by taking them over but he’s especially concerned with finding a one-eyed orc who happens to be our protagonist, One-Eye.

Broadly. Because when you’re told the reasoning at the start of the book, the whole thing doesn’t really make any sense. A seer or someone tells the Orctzar that this one-eyed orc will “unlock his god-organ”. Wha?! The reader has no idea what that is or why it’s important. James Stokoe proves to be one of those creators who’s a great artist but a rubbish writer. 

Because the art in this book is wonderful, really. I love the imaginative designs of the various orcish societies - and the architecture varies between clans too, an inspired touch - as well as the vibrancy of the world where everything’s alive. We’re introduced to One-Eye as he tries breaking into a safe which is a giant bear or something and its alarm is a bird - it’s like the Flintstones! 

The brutal and primitive aspects to this world made me think of Mad Max - definitely a plus - and the way the Orcs communicate over long distances through blinded marionettes was genius, kinda like a precursor to that guy in Fury Road with the flamethrower guitar! Even the prison is a giant beast which, from what we’ve seen of them at this point, feels like something the orcs would do - rather than build an elaborate structure, just toss their prisoners into something massive, ready-made and horrible! 

But oy, the story, the writing? It’s not there. One-Eye remains as one-dimensional as when we first meet him. He’s disaffected to start with and then he’s on the run by the end - he just reacts to things, we don’t know what he’s after or what he wants. The Orctzar’s storyline, as I mentioned above, is unfathomable. And, aside from an unfunny castration storyline, that’s really the whole book! Hordes of orcs shallowly smashing other hordes of orcs - who cares? 

Orc Stain showcases James Stokoe’s considerable artistic talents and imagination while also highlighting his limitations as a writer. Check it out if you’re an art aficionado otherwise I wouldn’t bother.

Orc Stain, Volume 1

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