01/06/2012. Contributed by Andy Whitaker
pub: First Second Books and distributed in the UK by Pan Macmillan. 205 page small softcover graphic novel. Price: GBP10.00 (UK), $17.00(US), $19.99 (CAN). ISBN: 978-1-59643-455-4.
check out websites: www.firstsecondbooks.com, www.macmillan.co.uk and www.stannicholls.com
This is a collaborative work to very good effect by Stan Nicholls, who lives in Warwickshire in the UK provided the original script, which was then adapted and drawn by Joe Flood, a resident of Brooklyn, USA. The novel starts with a six-page introduction written by Stan Nicholls to introduce his Orcs. This may seem unusual in a graphic novel but it is required as Nicholls’ Orcs are not the evil, demonic, blood thirsty, violent beasts people may be familiar with from Tolkien’s ‘ Lord Of The Rings’ novels. In this novel, they are bloodthirsty, violent warriors who, while not quite being the good guys, are not nearly as evil and demonic as some of the other people around. The introduction is well-written and worth reading as it primes the reader for what is to come. Also included in the introduction are details of Nicholls other ‘ Orcs’ novels should this graphic novel capture the reader’s interest and want to read more.
The story concerns a company of Orcs, called the Wolverines, who are led by Stryke. They are indentured into the service of the sorceress Jennesta, who is described as a self-styled despotic Queen. She certainly likes a bit of cruelty. The action takes place in a land called Maras-Dantia that has been home to a range of races including Orcs, Goblins and Trolls to name a few. Unfortunately, the Humans began to arrive in large numbers bringing with them their own vicious rivalries. Broadly speaking, the Humans are divided into two camps, the Manis who pursue pagan ways, and the Unis, who believe in the one god and seem hell bent on killing anyone who does not. Jennesta is currently aligned with the Manis and is at war with the Unis.
After successfully completing a mission to disrupt a Unis retreat, Stryke is summoned to the Palace and told by Jennesta that the Wolverines are to act as bodyguards to a company of Goblins lead by the sorcerer Eegett-Qinx (I have no idea how to pronounce that but it would be a killer at Scrabble!). The Goblins have developed a weapon that they are going to test against their enemies at a remote location. Stryke is tasked with the safe conduct and return of the Goblins and the weapon. Things are not made easier by the fact that the Orcs don’t like the Goblins who don’t like the Orcs. However, the Orcs don’t really seem to like anyone very much, if at all. What is surprising is that the Wolverines contain a dwarf, Jup, who is one of Stryke’s two sergeants. The Orcs natural dislike for other races and Jup’s surly disposition ensures that the two sergeants are regularly stopping for a punch-up.
The majority of the novel is taken up with the Orcs’ travels accompanying the Goblins to the remote location and the deployment of the weapon. There are crosses and double-crosses, not to mention rather a lot of deaths, often in very graphic detail. The story builds towards a fitting final where getting run through with a sword is probable taking the easy way out.
I found this to be a very enjoyable read. It has a good strong story that kept me engaged from start to finish. The artwork of Joe Flood does it justice and he deserves credit for that. I did wonder if it would be possible to tell the Orcs apart given the artistic style employed by Flood but again there are sufficient distinguishing features to be able to do this. Due to the graphic butchery and partial nudity (Jennesta does not have an extensive wardrobe) this novel is obviously aged at the teen/young adult market. This makes it surprising that it is distributed in the UK by Macmillan Children’s Books. There may be nightmares if it ends up on the wrong shelf.
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