Review – Orphan and the Five Beasts #2 (Dark Horse Comics)

Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Written and Illustrated by: James Stokoe
Release Date: 21st April 2021

What the hell did I just read??

Okay, let’s take a moment, shall we? The first issue of Orphan and the Five Beasts introduced us to Mo, a young orphan tasked with ridding her valley of five demonic monstrosities.  At the culmination of what was a fantastic opening chapter, we saw her come face-to-face (or should that be face-to-thigh?) with her first adversary, a hulking mound of quadriceps calling himself Thunderthighs. Up to speed? Alright, let the insanity commence…

We kick off the second issue of James Stokoe’s love letter to Hong Kong action movies by digging a little into the origin story of Thunderthighs, his fall from grace and his slow, festering decline into beastdom.  It’s all fun, tongue-in-cheek stuff, and gives Stokoe ample opportunity to flex his artistic muscle and play fast and loose with some classic Kung Fu cinema tropes.

The remainder of the issue is consumed with the scintillating back-and-forth battle between young Mo and Thunderthighs, and is packed with wanton destruction, violent set-pieces and plenty of Stokoe’s trademark visual flair.  It can be tempting focus solely on the impeccable detail and energetic expression in Stokoe’s artwork, but what really struck me about this latest issue is the way Stokoe conveys movement, particularly during the aforementioned battle.  Every motion is dramatically ramped up as the pair hurl themselves at one another in a flurry of awesomeness, making for a striking visual spectacle.

I also love the fact that Stokoe, despite his clear affection for Honk Kong action movies, doesn’t let things become too serious, working in some gloriously ridiculous lines of dialogue along the way.  It never verges into parody, but the Canadian cartoonist is definitely having a lot of fun delivering barbs like “you’ve got the moves, sister, but not the beef!”, not to mention the gloriously absurd conclusion to the skirmish.

Simply put, this new series is fantastic, and provides a perfect platform for Stokoe’s striking visual style and quirky sense of humour.  My only minor niggle about this issue is that we don’t get a glimpse of (or even a hint at) the second beast, but that’s more my personal greed and impatience talking. Ultimately, if you like action, humour, over-the-top violence and cracking artwork, I honestly can’t recommend Orphan and the Five Beasts highly enough.

Rating: 4.5/5.


The writer of this piece was: Craig Neilson-Adams (aka Ceej)
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