ORCS! #1 Review
ORCS! #1 is the first part of a six-issue fantasy series about a band of misfit orcs. The series is written and illustrated by Christine Larsen (Adventure Time, By Night), with variant covers by Sweeney Boo and Miguel Mercado.
Bog and his band of orcs have been sent on a quest by King Hrograhgah, even if the king believes it a product of bad intelligence. So our group of orcs make their way across the wide Known World in search of gold and glory. Along their journey they shall find themself tangling with eerie forests, squirrels, and each other.
ORCS! #1 is published by BOOM! Studios under their imprint KaBOOM! And is available from February 10, 2021.
ORCS! #1 Story
I cannot start this off without noting that this story is for KaBOOM!, BOOM! Studios’ imprint for middle grade and younger readers. There were a couple of points I had to remind myself of that fact as I read, finding there were still plenty of jokes that easily gave me a chuckle or references to the meta of fantasy, and orcs in particular, that made me stop to admire.
The issue opens with a recounting of a great orc warrior and explorer named Drod, and her encounter with a siren. Christine Larsen doesn’t shy away at all from the darker lore of the siren, going so far as to directly state that those who hear her song normally dash themselves against the rocks from madness. I was quite pleased to find this kind of detail, and the fact it came so early told me to be prepared for anything.
The story then shifts to the ‘present-day’ of the story, as Drod’s encounter with the siren is a story told to the younger orcs of the village. We are then brought to our main protagonists, Bog and his crew. I will admit it took me a bit to adjust to the protagonists after initially expecting the tale to follow Drod, and that we are not given full introductions to each member. Although the story does quickly fall into a flow with the characters that helps the reader get a feel for them as it unfolds.
From here the issue follows are fairly standard adventurer’s quest structure, as Bog and his gang are following a map in the hope of gold. It’s here that Christine gets to do some lovely world-building; including a rather different approach of orcs who fear the elves of the forests, and that the forest is known as Dapplelight Wood by the elves while Eerieasallhel Forest by the orcs (the latter of which I enjoyed a lot). We also learn that this will be no simple quest as the gang is beset by ferocious squirrels.
ORCS! #1 Art
Christine also does the art for the series and it compliments her story so well. There’s something about her art that made me feel it wouldn’t be such a stretch for it to have been animated, that it would fit in well amongst the kinds of shows seen on Cartoon Network. The characters are all of somewhat simple designs and yet remain fully expressive so that at least you never doubt what they’re feeling. The backgrounds are also no more complex than they need to be, with limited colour palettes per panel, so that the attention is never pulled away from the characters, which is where it needs to be.
ORCS! #1 Conclusion
I have a long-lasting love of fantasy, so I was rather hesitant going into a fantasy story intended for younger readers as often I find a lot of the language of fantasy is watered down. That isn’t at all what I found here. In fact, I was quite impressed at how Christine never seemed to speak down to her readers at all, the story speaks for itself and doesn’t shy away from those inherent fantasy elements. She focuses on telling a story and being entertaining as she does so, leading to plenty of laughs and moments of absurdity.
If you have kids with even a passing interest in fantasy, or perhaps are yourself after a fun fantasy tale, then I recommend giving this book a try. It doesn’t get bogged down trying to be something bigger than it is, it knows exactly what it is and delivers that. Also, at 30 pages, each issue will really deliver on letting you fall into this adventure alongside Bog and his gang.
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