ORPHAN AND THE FIVE BEASTS #1/ Script, Art, Colors, Letters & Cover by JAMES STOKOE/ Published by DARK HORSE COMICS‘
Once, in ancient times, there was a wolf who walked as a man, who threatened all that was decent, and a master of ancient fighting arts. Despite his better judgement, the Master taught his secrets to five villagers who wished to fight the wolf that walked as a man, though he feared his teachings would corrupt their impure spirits. Alas, the Master proved correct, and now his five students have become a menace even greater than the wolf that walked as a man.
Thankfully, the Master has a pupil; an orphan named Mo, who was the student noble in spirit and pure of heart that the Master had long waited for. She has mastered the five arts and proven herself worthy. Yet the Five Beasts her Master trained shall test her far more than even his most taxing trainings!
Orphan and the Five Beasts #1 is an excellent opening chapter to what promises to be a sure-hit with those who enjoy high-action martial arts tales. While the story is not overtly original, with the promotional materials calling out the 1978 classic Five Deadly Venoms as an inspiration, the execution is flawless. James Stokoe’s story and artwork go over-the-top in all the right ways.
This is not a story for those who wish to contemplate the gentle play of light, as if this were an Ukiyo-e print or a Kurosawa film. This is a story for those who want to gape at a villain called Thunder-Thighs, whose style of combat, “Two Trees Bearing Heaven,” involves crushing people between his legs. Orphan and the Five Beasts is not subtle, but it is enjoyable.