ORCS! #2 is an uncut gem of an all-ages fantasy comic. Energetic, scruffy, and surprisingly sweet, this cartoonish adventure is a wonderful comic to pick up and read on an idle afternoon. It’s just the thing for reluctant new readers and fantasy diehards alike.
This issue picks up right where the first one leaves off. Utzu and her gang of Orc raiders have come to the forbidden Eerieasallhel Forest in search of treasure, only to be thwarted by a colony of bloodthirsty squirrels. But the real trouble starts when they return to their cave and pull a prank on their leader to show their unhappiness with the lousy assignment. The issue also follows her young son Sprog and his friends as they get in unsupervised misadventures back home among various other adults in the Orc community.
Written and illustrated by Christine Larsen, ORCS! is both a love letter and a good tweak to well-trodden fantasy tropes. Utzu and her crew squabble and plunder, and are full of disrespect, but also love one another and care for their community, even if they don’t always show it. There is an adolescent sort of appeal in the tone of the book that comes right off the page. It is the sort of comic that a ten-year-old could pick up and feel like they got away with something, even though the book is perfectly appropriate. ORCS! has a manic comedic style that feels more like a Saturday morning cartoon than an epic quest.
But the story is also great fun for fantasy or role-playing fans who can pick up on every reference and sight gag. The cast is deep and if not exactly endearing, then they all have a rude charm. I will always go to bat for a book where the characters shout out their ability names, especially when they are yelling things like ‘Stealth mode!’ The humor in the book lands on a generalized goofiness that is easy to pick up and appreciate, and is rooted in the characters if you look closely enough. I ended up fully invested in this band of misfits and their shenanigans.
Christine Larsen’s art, with flatting assistance by H. E. Greggory, is breezy and kinetic. ORCS! has an iconic, cartoonish style and the manic action is easy to read, and I was surprised when I found myself at the last page so quickly.
ORCS! #2 also ends with a continuation of the tale of Drod from the first issue. Drod is the tribe’s adventuresome folk heroine, and I loved the way the transition between the two stories was accomplished. Larsen’s artwork in this section is particularly deft and retains her style while also evoking a more classical picture-book style. Her love of stories and story-telling really shines through in these sections, even if Drod herself just wants to wander around and punch stuff.
At 44 pages, ORCS! #2 is crammed full of comedy and manic action from cover to cover. While the story was simple enough to follow, I would’ve liked the book to have had something like a cast or a recap page. Larsen is working with a very large cast and dives right into the story. While the main characters have eye-catching designs, I was completely lost trying to keep track of who the supporting characters were. This is the sort of book one discovers on a spinner rack, and as the second issue, having something to lead in would be good for new readers as well.
ORCS! #2 is an endearing fantasy misadventure comic full of goofy jokes and lovable misfits. It is the perfect book to hand to young readers, or to share across your gaming table. But while it maintains the energy and pacing of the first issue, new readers might have some trouble coming up to speed.
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