BOASTING A TITLE that would make any dungeon master burst with pride, Orc Stain—the latest from one-man-comics-factory James Stokoe, the writer/artist/colorist/letterer behind Wonton Soup—is a refreshingly trippy fantasy starring One-Eye, an uncommonly clever orc. On the run from his own kind—nearly all of whom are loutish, violent, stupid, and obsessed with their dicks—the thieving One-Eye eventually crashes into a possible ally, a nymph mystic who lives in a far-off swamp and seems to find orc-kind as despicable as One-Eye does.
While Orc Stain's goofy, fast-paced plot is perfectly serviceable (this might be the first story wholly dependent on intricate social mores involving severed orc penises), the real reason to pick this thing up is to get sucked into its ludicrously inventive art. Stokoe's pages and panels are crammed with frenetic, hyper-colored action and weird, intricately imagined landscapes. Slathered in hallucinogenic colors, just about everything in Orc Stain—pimply orcs, bizarre lizards, massive Lovecraftian behemoths, gravity-defying architecture, various bits of genitalia and/or viscera—is rendered by Stokoe with hypnotic, OCD-levels of detail. It's gorgeous, time-consuming, and unexpectedly addictive stuff, which brings me to my only big complaint: Made up of Orc Stain's first five issues, this collection ends on a decidedly unsatisfying note, with Stokoe building a lurid, exciting world, then leaving readers hanging. But hey, on the upside: More Orc Stain to come? Okay!