This week, KaBOOM!’s new series ORCS! sets off with its first issue. ORCS! is a six-part tale that follows Bog and his odd band of teammates, as they go on a quest for fortune and redemption. Writer and artist Christine Larsen describes ORCS! as a comic for younger readers — one that is “dedicated to…the quirky sidekicks, goofy henchmen, and army of lackeys”. The series’ focus on the ‘underdogs’ of fantasy is a welcome break in a genre that sometimes falls into tired, one-dimensional character tropes.
Issue #1 begins with the adventures of Great Orc Drod, and her encounter with a Siren. When the powdery blue color-scheme and stylized text come to an abrupt end, it is revealed that the reader is following a story being told to a group of young Orcs by an elderly Orc lady. The panels then begin to follow our former narrator as she walks through the orc’s cavernous home. The light tones of the children’s tale contrast with the now candlelit darkness of the caves. Despite their shadowy dwellings, it is quickly established that these orcs live in a supportive and loving community.
After the issue introduces the reader to the Orc society, the main narrative promptly follows. Two sisters, Utzu and Pez, join Zep, Bog, and Gurh on a journey to find some treasure — which is set to be split between the crew and the shady King Hrograhgah. The plot is simple enough to make room for fun character moments. Indeed, it is impressive how Larsen quickly establishes the personalities within the group, as well as the additional members of the cast that pop up halfway through the issue. The dynamics between the characters are delightful and feel genuine almost immediately. Moreover, the issue’s comedic moments are brilliantly timed with sharp quips and animated visuals. Readers young and old are bound to have a good laugh reading ORCS! #1. I am proud to say that, at the age of 24, I am still not immune to humor involving butts.
The main problem I had with this issue was the occasional need for an extra panel or two between jokes. The comedy lands well, but there are a few jokes that would have worked even better if they were drawn out ever so slightly. Still, this is a minor complaint.
The issue’s design may also occasionally be confusing for very early readers. Straight-forward, horizontally sequential tiers may not be the most interesting type of paneling, but it is often an easy way to introduce young children into comics. By not utilizing this method, ORCS! risks scaring off some of its reader-base. This is not necessarily to say that Larsen should have taken a more basic route — it is just something to point out for prospective carers looking to buy new readers comics.
ORCS! #1 is a promising start to a series that is ideal for younger readers interested in fantasy. Larsen delivers a comic full of charm and fun in a story dedicated to the underdogs.
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