With an alarmingly granular attention to detail, cartoonist James Stokoe shoulders an entire load of producing this visually stunning but tonally empty debut. With overtures that will evoke nostalgia from fans of the Shaw Brothers or Kill Bill, Orphan And The Five Beasts #1 is long on visual grandeur and short on characterization.
Orphan Mo is a foundling, abandoned by her parents and raised by an ancient wizard, er, martial arts master who trained her to master five deadly disciplines because she was pure of heart. No, her last name isn't "Batson." Anyhoo, as her master lies dying, he reveals that five of his former students, students who came to gain the power to protect their nation, became corrupted by the threat of mastery of the lightning, er, martial art. No, they don't have a sick black and yellow lightning theme to them. In any case, upon his death, she sets to right his wrongs and stops the former five students, who have now all predictably embodied Harvey Dent's cinematic quote about heroes and villains.
There is a solid framework here that overlays generic ethnic othering, and that's the challenge here. There are no details about who Orphan Mo is, adopting a mission because she believes one side of a story radicalized as much as Luke Skywalker was by Obi-Wan. Likewise, while the first of the five former students clearly did become a jerk, there's no rationale to why other than taking Lord Acton's warning as gospel. The genericism is exactly the issue — this could have been a Celtic tale or an Ethiopian one, and casting it as Asian without detail, without specificity, exoticizes in a time when we truly do need to understand the details.
There's nothing wrong here, no, but there's nothing actively leaping off the page and reaching for greatness either. Given Stokoe's prodigious visual skill, that's a shame. RATING: MEH.
Orphan And The Five Beasts #1
By James Stokoe
A brand-new kung-fu epic from James Stokoe, the creator behind Orc Stain and Aliens: Dead Orbit! Spurred on by her master's dying words, the adopted warrior "Orphan Mo" seeks to find and kill five former disciples who now threaten the land with corruption from their demonic powers. Part Five Deadly Venoms and part surreal grindhouse, James Stokoe brings his knack for ultra-detailed fantasy imagery and over-the-top violence to this classic tale of revenge. "His artwork is astonishingly detailed, with an infectious, monstrous energy and dynamism that needs to be experienced by every fan of comic books." -SyFy Wire