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Dara Naraghi's graphic novel Lifelike is now available in both digital and print editions. Click here for more info.

Books – Dara
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Image of Igor Movie Prequel
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Image of Witch & Wizard Volume 2: Operation Zero (Witch & Wizard (Idw))
Image of Ghostbusters: Haunted Holidays
Image of Cory Doctorow's Futuristic Tales Of The Here And Now
Image of The Absurd Adventures of Archibald Aardvark Volume 1: Bullets, Booze, and Beelzebub
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Books -Panel
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Image of Saint Germaine: Tales of an Immortal
Image of Sherlock Holmes & Kolchak: Cry For Thunder S/N Limited Edition HC
Image of Ghost Sonata
Image of Vampire The Masquerade Volume 1: Blood and Roses
Image of Moonstone Monsters Volume 1

Back when Young Dara was, well, young, his favorite genre was fantasy. He devoured all the sword & sorcery books at his local library. He watched all the straight-to-video fantasy movies. But over the years, he got bored with the genre. It was becoming rather repetitive and cliched. He tried different fantasy comics over the years, but again, none of them were really all that original or innovative.

That’s all changed with the arrival of Orc Stain, from Image Comics.

Created, written, drawn, colored, and lettered by James Stokoe, Orc Stain dumps all the trappings and tropes of the genre, and instead focuses on a world solely populated by Orcs. And when you have millions of savage, battle-hungry orcs, only the biggest and baddest of them get some recognition by having a number assigned to them upon their deaths. Forget about names. And so it is that we follow a young orc thief nicknamed “One-Eye” as he pilfers orc burial sites, trying to make a living. Little does he know that he somehow fits into a prophecy involving the Orctzar, one mean SOB who is managing to do what no other orc chieftain has done yet: conquer and unite the many disparate orc tribes.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that this comic is fairly light on plot and story. The tale unfolds at a very leisurely pace, and despite the supposed epic scale of the Orctzar’s plans, not much really happens in the grand scheme of things in the first 2 issues. But that’s ok, because what it lacks in those departments, it more than makes up for with its audacious artwork, wild ideas, and bizarre idiosyncrasies.

I find Stokoe’s art utterly charming, in a disturbing sort of way. Part Vaugh Bode cartoonish expressions, and part Geoff Darrow OCD details, he excells at fantastic landscapes and architecture, dynamic action, and insanely detailed garments and props. And those bright, vibrant colors! It’s refreshing to have a book all about orcs that doesn’t take the convenient and expected highway route of muddy browns and dark olives, instead opting for the scenic route of lush greens, crimsons, and pinks.

And then there’s Stokoe’s uniquely twisted take on even the most mundane objects and settings. Here’s our protagonist preparing to break into a bear safe. Sorry, a gurpa safe:

Or having a beer with the local crime boss:

It gets weirder still. There’s “krab smoking”, full-frontal orc and love-nymph nudity, and lots of talk about “gronch chopping” (I’ll let you figure out what a gronch is, and why an orc may not want to lose his). Even Stokoe’s sound effects are original: GX!, SPTZ!, KSH!, PNK!, PMKH! and others which look weird splattered dozens of times across a panel, but fit in perfectly with the book’s odd style. Reading the book, there is no doubt in the reader’s mind that this is the vision of one creator, having made the purest transition from Stokoe’s imagination to the printed page, with no middle-men diluting the creative elixer. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it is utterly unique, and a breath of fresh air not just in the fantasy genre, but in comics in general.

Oh, and if you need one other incentive to give it a shot: 32 full color pages of story/art for $2.99. In this era of $4 comics that only deliver 22 pages of story, that is a true bargain.

Orc Stain. Check it out.

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2 Responses to “Review: Orc Stain #1 & #2”

  • matt kish says:

    This is the only monthly comic I am reading, and probably the only monthly comic I’ve purchased in the last 2 or 3 years. I really enjoy it for a lot of the reasons Dara mentioned but especially for the art and that godawfully beautiful color.

    The only beef I have is that there are still too many misspelled words in each issue. I like the fact that, as Dara put it, there are “no middle-men diluting the creative elixir” but someone needs to at least edit the lettering. If there is one thing that can really make me feel like I’m reading some piece of amateur garbage and not a professionally published comic, it’s misspelling the same character’s name twice in one issue. Seriously, it’s been “Orctzar,” “Ortczar” and “Orczar.” C’MON STOKOE!

    Other than that, the best comic being put out today, I think. No kidding on that.

  • Tom says:

    Image leaves the creators to their own devices. No editorial input what-so-ever. Only input you might have is with the production/layout guy. They green light it and collect the money. That’s Image.
    The art sort of reminds me of Corey Lewis’ stuff on Sharkknife. It looks fun. I’ve almost picked up this book a couple of times.


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