This is one of those oh-so-simple kick yourself ideas. What if the Orcs were good and the humans were bad? Genius yes? Absolutely. We follow a warband of Orcs enslaved to a human nation that seems hell-bent on destroying the land, its inhabitants and each other.
Nichols has written six successful novels with this premise and this graphic novel is different from many other novel tie-ins for two reasons. Firstly it isn’t an adaptation, and secondly it is written by the author himself. This means there is no compressing, cutting or botching an existing story to fit it into a smaller space.
Whilst fairly standard pulp fantasy it is certainly enjoyable and you could easily see this being made into a fantasy action movie for the big screen. There is lots of war, fighting and bloody brutality. Having non-human characters as protagonists means you empathise with their cause more than them as individuals. There isn’t a lot of characterisation or growth but they are easy to root for.
Beneath the surface you can easily find a message about the destructive nature of human beings. How they will exploit their environment, invade other countries, subjugate different groups and twist religion to evil ends. It’s there in black and white but never overtly trumpeted.
The art has that digital webcomics feel with thick lines, minimal shading and bright CGI colours. There is plenty of action and the words know when to shut up and let the dismemberment commence. With a 30 strong warband it is hard to create distinct faces for everyone so you can get confused as to who is who occasionally particularly as this is in digest format and thus using smaller panels.
There is a brief sketchbook at the rear and an author introduction describing how he came up with the idea and an introduction to the world and characters. This should really have be placed afterword as the story gives you all this information as you go along and you feel a bit cheated not being allowed to work things out for yourself.
All in all a Thumbs Up!
Tomorrow: Whiteout – Greg Rucka