REVIEW: ‘Orphan and the Five Beasts,’ Issue #2

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Orphan and the Five Beasts #2

Orphan and the Five Beasts #2 is published by Dark Horse Comics, and is written, drawn, colored, and lettered by James Stokoe. Having located the bandit king Thunderthighs, Orphan Mo must now overcome this powerful opponent to be one step closer to purifying the valley. But beyond his immense strength, there is still more to Thunderthighs than meets the eye.

Issue two opens with a look back at Thunderthighs while training under orphan Mo’s late master. We see how his endurance and strength are utilized by the devoted student and leveraged to gain even greater strength. However, we also see how his overdependence on his strength slowly corrupts him and ultimately causes his downfall. 

As someone who has always believed that every virtue bears its vice, seeing stories like Orphan and the Five Beasts #2 delve into the concept of how even virtues, if not dealt with in moderation, can lead to our fall is refreshing. This reservation about the over-pursuit of singular virtues, at the detriment of others, is an oft-overlooked concept in media. But all things need moderation, even if, on the surface, they seem good. 

Once the story returns to the present, the remainder of the book’s time is fixed on the battle between Orphan Mo and Thunderthighs. This fight delivers a solid amount of energy and style as Thunderthighs recognizes Mo as a fellow practitioner of the Art. But unlike him, Mo’s training has given her a fully balanced approach to battle that Thunderthigh’s emphasis on strength lacks. 

While this battle mostly succeeds in delivering an entertaining fight, it does have some failings. As Mo deftly maneuvers around every attack launched her way, there is never any sense of real danger for the protagonist. This could be intentional on the part of Stokoe, trading the excitement of a pitched battle now to establish Mo’s skills further. If so, while it may pay off in the long run, this choice deprives Orphan and the Five Beasts #2 of much of the thrill it could’ve had. 

The issue’s other stumble for me lies with how bizarre the fight becomes near the end. While the previous issue displayed some sense of the unusual in its story, this moment takes the weirdness to a whole new level. It’s strange conceptually, as well as being visually disturbing. I’m still struggling with how to process it.

The art in Orphan and the Five Beasts #2 leans into the book’s energy, as well as its absurdity well. Thunderthigh’s boastful, larger-than-life nature is captured well as he seems to eclipse Mo’s diminutive figure. Not that it ever feels like it will do him any good. 

The finishing touch on the book is the lettering. Stokoe’s letters complement the book’s look extremely well. I can’t picture a better style to go with the book’s presentation.

When all is said and done, Orphan and the Five Beasts #2 delivers mixed results. While it opens strong, it soon devolves during its battle sequence, torn between the desire to be exciting and farce while ultimately failing at both. 

Orphan and the Five Beasts #2 is available April 21st wherever comics are sold.

Orphan and the Five Beasts #2
2.5

TL;DR

Orphan and the Five Beasts #2 delivers mixed results. While it opens strong, it soon devolves during its battle sequence, torn between the desire to be exciting and farce, while ultimately failing at both.